Michigan Falls In Big Ten Quarterfinals

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Illinois' Mike Davis and Calvin Brock took turns replacing the injured Chester Frazier on Friday.
Davis provided a steadying influence, while Brock filled in as the defensive stalwart. With the two-man tandem working in perfect unison, Illinois didn't miss a step -- and Michigan didn't stand a chance.
The Fighting Illini got 22 points and 11 rebounds from Davis, and Brock shut down Michigan's Manny Harris to help second-seeded Illinois claim its annual spot in the Big Ten tournament semifinals with a 60-50 victory.
"He (Frazier) told me just play hard defense and your offense will take care of itself and don't worry about missing shots," Davis said. "That's what I did tonight."
Illinois (24-8) has always made the Big Ten tourney its showcase for the NCAA's selection committee. They have more wins, more semifinal appearances and the highest winning percentage of any conference team in this event.
Yet they spent Friday night doing something else: Showing the committee it shouldn't lower the Illini's seed simply because of Frazier's uncertain playing status.
Hours after the Fighting Illini announced Frazier, their all-conference defensive player, had surgery on his right hand and would likely miss the entire tournament in Indy, the replacements delivered a performance reminiscent of Frazier's skills.
Davis was brilliant blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, jumping into passing lanes, and, of course, finishing as the Illini's top scorer. Meanwhile, Brock was just as productive against Harris, who went 3-of-11 and finished with only nine points -- far below his season average of 17.1.
The combination was too potent for the Wolverines (20-13), who were led by DeShawn Sims' 15 points.
Now they'll have to wait to see if early season wins over Duke and UCLA and their best season in years will be enough to end their 11-year absence from the NCAA tournament.
"Me, personally, I think the team is good enough to be selected," Harris said. "Whatever happens, happens. If we don't (get in), we'll work hard and play our best anyway. But I do feel we are an NCAA team."
Illinois shouldn't have the same worries. Another win in Saturday's semifinals against third-seeded Purdue, a 79-65 winner over Penn State, should also make the case that Illinois deserves a high seed -- with or without Frazier.
Team officials said there is a possibility the senior guard could return next week, though it certainly didn't look good Friday night. Frazier spent the game sitting on the edge of his seat, dressed in his uniform with a heavy, black cast peeking out from his warmup shirt and covering the entire hand.
Initially, coach Bruce Weber was concerned how the Illini would respond.
Davis and Brock alleviated any lingering doubts.
"It was just a challenge to me," said Brock, who started his first game since Nov. 16. "I had to prove to my coaches and teammates that I was up for it."
So was Davis, who scored only 12 total points in the first two meetings with Michigan. He nearly matched that total by halftime.
And while he made 11 of 19 shots, Davis also showed he has a multitude of talents. He blocked two shots, had three steals, even delivered an assist and made every big play the Illini needed.
"I think tonight after Chester went down, it's human nature to think we're not going to play well," Weber said. "So I challenged them to step up and take a major step and be special. We needed people to be special. I think that's how it happened."
Davis certainly was.
He dominated the game early when the two teams found themselves slugging it out, then spurred the decisive second-half charge with his versatility.
He started the second half by blocking a shot, then scoring on a fast break and finishing off the 8-2 scoring flurry with a steal and dunk. That turned a 25-24 halftime lead into a 33-26 cushion.
Illinois was just warming up.
After Michigan called a timeout, Davis forced a turnover that led to another basket and followed that with an alley-oop play. When that 17-5 run ended, Illinois led 50-31 with 11:33 left.
Michigan, which opened the second half shooting 4-of-14, finally got in sync late. After trailing 54-34 with 7:01 remaining, the Wolverines ran off 13 straight points.
Then the Illini went back to their sophomore swingman, Davis, who spun around for a 7-foot baseline jumper that essentially ended any chance of a Michigan comeback.
Illinois allowed only three more points to close it out.
"Right now this (injury) gives some other guys opportunities, and they did a great job," Weber said. "Somebody asked about the second half, and I think our defense picked up. We got shutouts. Mike Davis ran and Calvin ran and Trent (Meacham) hit those back-to-backs and gave us the big lead."


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