(WCIA) — The Big Ten Title debate isn’t going away anytime soon, after the crowned champion Michigan fell to Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. The Illini finished the regular season with 16 conference wins, the most in program history, while Michigan had just 14.
Michigan played only 17 of its 20 games this season, after the program was on pause for several weeks due to the B117 COVID-19 variant found within the program. While Illinois has more conference wins during the regular season, Michigan’s winning percentage (82.4%) is favored over Illinois (80.0%).
“I know we’ve won 16 games, and we’ve played all 20 of them,” says head coach Brad Underwood.
“We all knew this would be a unique situation with and unbalanced schedule in terms of not playing all the games. But I know this, nobody’s won more games than us.”
The Illini are chasing another ring though, and that’s a Big Ten Tournament title. They’re coming off the heels of a 73-68 win over No.7 Ohio State, likely cementing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“Look at our resume. We beat Michigan who were the champs. I think we proved we’re one of the best teams in the country. With this win tonight, we believe we’re Big Ten Champions,” said Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu after Saturday’s win.
Dosunmu returned to the court against Ohio State, after he missed three straight games due to concussion protocol. The junior will also sport a face guard for the rest of the season to protect a broken nose. He scored 19 points in his return, closing out the game for the Illini with five straight points. But it was Da’Monte Williams that put Illinois in position to take the lead, after tying the game with a clutch three-point shot with a 1:30 left on the clock.
“We just dialed in even more, we knew it was going to be tough on the road, we just came together and said we just going to give it our all, and finish it out,” said Williams.
“Da’Monte, man, he played great,” said Dosunmu. “He came out and he does what he does, made big plays, on the defensive end, he does everything else that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Illinois is locked up as the #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, they’ll play on Friday, with their opponent still to be determined.