Trent Frazier led the way with 22 points, Andre Curbelo scored 11 of his 17 in the first half, and the Illini dismantled No. 2 Michigan with a smothering defensive performance, routing the Wolverines 76-53 on Tuesday night.
Kofi Cockburn added 12 points for Illinois. Playing again without injured star Ayo Dosunmu, the Illini (19-6, 15-4 Big Ten) kept Michigan from clinching the conference title and boosted their own chances at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Eli Brooks scored 11 points and was the only player in double figures for Michigan. The Wolverines (18-2, 13-2) looked physically overwhelmed for much of the night, unable to create good shots and unable to keep the Illini off the boards. It was an eye-opening blowout — especially since Michigan has rolled to similar margins of victory against other good teams this season.
Both teams had a hard time scoring in the first half, but Curbelo’s ability to drive to the basket helped Illinois to a 33-22 lead at the break. Then the Illini kept pouring it on.
Illinois outscored Michigan 22-5 in second-chance points and held the Wolverines to 35% shooting from the field.
The Big Ten confirmed before the game that it will use winning percentage to determine the league champion. Michigan can still wrap that up with a win in either of its last two regular-season games — or if Illinois loses its last game this weekend.
The Illini still have an uphill climb to win the Big Ten, but if they finish a game or two behind Michigan in the loss column, their fans will likely be heard from on the topic. The Wolverines are scheduled to play three fewer games than Illinois, and the size of this blowout — without Dosunmu — will resonate. Dosunmu has missed the past three games after breaking his nose, but the Illini have won them all. Brad Underwood said Dosunmu has also been in concussion protocol.
The Illini play at No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday.