INDIANAPOLIS – The shot was Nik Stauskas’ to take.
But the Michigan guard and Big Ten player of the year found himself stuck in traffic in the lane and dished to forward Jordan Morgan.
Morgan took it from there with a drive that led to a game-winning layup with 8.9 seconds to play in the Wolverines’ 64-63 come-from-behind victory over Illinois in Big Ten tournament quarterfinals on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“Coming out of the timeout, Nik told me he was going to shoot regardless, so I wasn’t necessarily ready for the pass,” Morgan said. “(But) I was watching the play and put it on the rim and got a nice roll.”
Stauskas was blocked as Illinois abruptly switched to a man-to-man defense.
“I came off a high ball screen and was looking to be aggressive,” he said. “I raised up to shoot and the guy guarding me was still chasing me and their big came up to me, and J-Mo rode that lane and was open (so) I hit him with the ball.”
The No. 8-ranked Wolverines (24-7), who are the top seeds in the conference tournament, earned a semifinal date with either Nebraska or Ohio State, who met in Friday’s second quarterfinal clash.
Illinois, which rallied from a 13-point deficit and led going into the final seconds, went for a game-winning shot, but guard Tracy Abrams’ jumper fell short with one second showing.
“I thought it was going in and I had the utmost confidence,” said Abrams who stood on the court after the game with a stunned look on his face.
Stauskas scored a game-high 19 points, forward Glen Robinson III had 15 and guard Caris LeVert added 13 for Michigan.
Guards Rayvonte Rice and Abrams scored 11 points each while guard Kendrick Nunn added 11 for Illinois (19-14), which dropped an 84-53 decision 10 days ago in Champaign, Ill., to the regular-season Big Ten champs.
LeVert’s 3-pointer broke a 33-33 tie with 1:41 left in the first half, and he added a dunk with 46 seconds showing as the Wolverines went on to a 38-33 halftime lead.
The Wolverines opened the second half with an 11-3 run for a 49-36 lead. But an Illinois rally got the margin back into single digits at 49-40 on an Abrams’ layup at the 15:20 mark.
The Illini trimmed the deficit to 55-54 on Abrams’ 3-pointer with eight minutes left. Twenty-eight seconds later Robinson replied with a baseline 3-pointer to make it 58-54, the last Michigan points for the next 4:21.
The Wolverines were forced to play cautiously as the Illini pushed back.
“It was tough because they were in the bonus and so they were just attacking the rim,” Morgan said. “It was hard for us to necessarily stay in front without fouling.”
Illinois took its first lead since the opening half at 59-58 on Rice’s running jumper with 4:57 to play, then extended its lead to 61-58.
Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. tied the game with a 3-pointer with 3:09 on the clock but Rice replied with a two-point jumper to give Illinois a 63-61 edge.
Stauskas’ free throw with 55 seconds left made it a one-point game and set the stage for a final scramble and Morgan’s game-winner.
Michigan, which played in the 2013 NCAA title game, seeks its fourth straight NCAA appearance and fifth since 2009.
Illinois is looking elsewhere at this point.
“We still have opportunities to participate in the post-season at this juncture,” said second-year Illinois coach John Groce. “When you look back from March 2012 to now, there’s so much momentum. … We’re heading in the right direction.”
NOTES: Ninth-seeded Illinois lost 10 of 11 games from Jan. 4 to Feb. 15, but recovered late in the season with five wins in its last six games before Friday, including a 64-54 Big Ten tournament win on Thursday over Indiana. … In that win over the Hoosiers, Illinois F/C Nnanna Egwu set a school Big Ten tournament record with five blocked shots, while G Tracy Abrams scored a season-high 25 points. … Illinois has made the Big Ten championship game six times but a No. 9 seed has reached the title game just once.
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