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Illinois Basketball Bounces Back at Michigan



Jan 18, 2024; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) celebrate after defeating the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In their loss on the weekend to Maryland, Illinois basketball was the nail. However, in their 88-73 win over Michigan they were the hammer. The Illini jumped out to a hot start, and only relinquished the lead once on their way to a calm finish. It was a professional response to dropping a winnable home game.

1. Balanced Bruises

Brad Underwood lamented Illinois’ lack of toughness against Maryland, and the team responded in Ann Arbor. The Illini were +10 on the glass, consistently getting to their misses. The Illini harassed the Wolverines with nine steals. Offensively they took turns attacking the Wolverines with 42 paint points. Michigan never really got in striking range late largely due to the Illini’s ability to get offensive rebounds and baskets in the paint. Quincy Guerrier was especially rugged, with six of his 14 rebounds on the offensive end. When Illinois rebounds like that they are extremely tough to stop on offense.

2. Hawk Flies High

Guerrier’s frontcourt mate was the star of the show, putting up a ridiculous 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, six steals a block and no turnovers. He fouled just once despite physically battling Tarris Reed for 30 minutes. Coleman Hawkins is one of the most unique chess pieces in all of college basketball especially when he is shooting as well as he is (23 of his last 53 from deep). Hawkins also provided his usual suffocating perimeter defense against switches on Michigan’s guards. He has to continue this level of play for Illinois to challenge for the Big Ten title, but this is the best Coleman Hawkins we have seen at Illinois.

3. Another One

There are very few certainties in the Big Ten, however right now you can set your watch to Illinois beating Michigan. Brad Underwood moves to 7-0 against Juwan Howard. It’s been a shockingly dominant run in what has long been one of the best series in the conference. This is by far Howard’s worst team, and another disjointed second half will only add to the pressure around the program. Right now though I would say most Illini fans wouldn’t mind not seeing any change in how this matchup looks any time soon.

With the win Illinois goes to 13-4, and 4-2 in conference. They welcome a struggling Rutgers team to the RAC on Sunday.

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Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.