King Of The Hill

King Of The Hill

Nothing better when you're a kid, right? It's a snow day, your mom wants you out of the house, so you call your friends and all meet at the local grocery store parking lot to play King Of The Hill on the giant mound of snow in the corner. If the current king shoves you all the way down to the bottom, who cares? The snow provides a soft tumble down.

Man, I miss it. If it snows enough tonight, let's all meet at the County Market parking lot when I get back tomorrow.

The game at Crisler tonight was exactly that. A 40-minute game of King Of The Hill. Well, a 30 minute game of King Of The Hill, and then the last ten minutes were like when the really strong kid was at the top of the hill and everyone kind of just started to give up because no one was knocking him off.

(Yes, the Really Strong Kid in this story will be Coleman Hawkins. Keep reading.)

If I was a Michigan basketball fan (gross), this would have been a very difficult game to watch. I do this thing when we're trailing in a game, but coming back, where I just want to get the lead. Get over the hump. Just make the score 49-48 or something and then I'll feel so much better about the game. But if we keep coming back yet never actually lead? It's a nightmare for me.

And that was this game for Michigan. They'd be down by eight, and then they'd cut it to one, and then they'd have a shot in the air to take the lead, and they'd miss. And we'd push it back out to seven, and then they'd cut it to two, and they'd have a three to take the lead… and they'd miss.

Actually, I have the play-by-play right here, so I can tell you exactly how it went.

Michigan led 2-0. It was their only lead of the game. Coleman Hawkins tied it at 2 twenty seconds later and we would never trail in the game. They did tie it one other time, but we would never trail.

The entire first half was then a see-saw. We ran out to a nine point lead, Michigan cut it to three. We pushed it back out to an eight point lead, they went on a run and cut it to one at 20-19. The crowd was into it… and then Domask made a layup and Rodgers scored in the lane and we led by five again.

Michigan cut it to two, Rodgers missed a couple free throws, and they had a three in the air to take the lead… and they missed. We then made another little run and had the lead at 35-29 but then Michigan got within four and we commit the worst kind of foul: we foul a three point shooter, he makes the shot, and he's going to the line to tie the game just before halftime.

He missed the free throw, and Illinois had a one-point lead a halftime.

But Michigan is getting the ball to start the second half and Nimari Burnett has a jumper to give Michigan the lead… he misses. Domask is fouled on the next Illini possession and only makes one of two free throws so it's 38-36 Illinois. Michigan comes down the court, Terrence Williams releases a three to give Michigan the leeeeeaaadd… he missed.

See what I mean?

But then Marcus Domask is called for an offensive foul, Dug McDaniel gets to the rim and lays it in, and we're tied! Michigan might actually take the lead! No, sorry, I've just been handed a note that Ty Rodgers scored on the fast break literally seven seconds later. Michigan had tied it for seven total seconds.

Then Coleman hits a three, and Domask hits a jumper, and Juwan Howard calls timeout. Suddenly the Illini lead is seven again. Does Michigan have another run in them?

They do! They come out of the timeout, make a little run, and with 14:10 left in the game they cut it to one again at 48-47. Will Michigan actually take the lead this time? After Quincy Guerrier misses a three pointer, Michigan has the ball with the chance to take the lead. McDaniel shoots a jumper and… he misses.

But wait! McDaniel is crafty and he steals the ball from the rebounder and Michigan has another shot. Surely they'll take the lead this time, right? They can't have all of these shots to take the lead and miss every single one of them, right? Let me check the box score here…

13:11 U-M - Missed Jumper By U-M #0 Mcdaniel, Dug
13:08 U-I - Defensive Rebound By U-I #33 Hawkins, Coleman

Harmon then scores and is fouled. He hits the free throw and Illinois leads by 4. Goode then hits a three and Illinois leads by 7. Harmon then gets a dunk on a breakaway and suddenly Illinois leads by 9 again.

And that was that. By the time Justin Harmon was fouled and hit two free throws with 8:19 remaining, Illinois led by 16 and, with the local time around 10:10 pm at this point, the crowd started to head for the exits. They'd seen enough. Michigan would run up the snow bank, get right to the top, attempt to dethrone the king, and get shoved all the way back down the hill. Over and over and over.

The king in this story is Coleman Hawkins. Immediately after the game I went to the "second half box score" and my goodness mercy me:

11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals. In one half of basketball. Double it and he'd be two assists away from a quadruple-double. Michigan would clean the treads on their snow boots, gather themselves, charge up the snow bank… and Coleman would shove them right back down.

All hail the king of the hill.

+ The visiting crowd was fantastic tonight. This being the Krush road game was obviously a huge part of it, but from my seat on the other end of the arena, the little pockets of orange noise all around Crisler were so loud.

It helped that a lot of Michigan fans stayed home. Paid attendance was 10,919 (Crisler seats 13,751, so around 3,000 unsold seats), but I'd say the actual attendance was maybe around 7,500? Lots of season ticket sections down by the court appeared to be maybe only 60% full. So when you add it busloads of Krush and a lot of other Illini fans, it gets surprisingly loud when Illinois goes on a run and Michigan takes a timeout.

Let me go find a highlight from the broadcast and see if you can hear the crowd.

This is perfect. Just tweeted it (embedded below). As long as you're not in a meeting at work right now, turn the sound on and listen to this. (And if you are in a meeting at work right now, slip in one of your earbuds real stealth-like and listen to this):


I love that so much. WE TRAVEL.

+ 1,834 days since we lost to Michigan on January 10, 2019. Actually, wait, it's past midnight now.

1,835 days since we lost to Michigan.

+ Let's update the "Guerrier rebounding average since the Fairleigh Dickinson game" thing real quick. Gary A's rebounding average since the FDU game: 9.3 rebounds per game

Tonight's total was 14. I know that Coleman was the player of the game, but Gary A was salutatorian. 16 points and 14 boards.

+ The box score is nearly exactly what you want from this team, I think. Let me correct that. When it isn't a "just let Domask put up 25 or more" night, this is what you need the scoring to look like:

Hawkins 21
Guerrier 16
Rodgers 15
Domask 15
Harmon 11
Goode 8

The only other points were the 2 points from Nico Moretti (in his first action since the foot injury on November 19th). Speaking of Moretti, it will be interesting to see if he can provide 6-10 minutes per game down the stretch. The Maryland game proved that a 6-man lineup will show very tired legs in the second half, so 6-10 minutes from Moretti would be super helpful for our guards.

But this bullet point is about the balanced scoring, and that's what we need the box score to look like. Would have loved to see Goode hit one more shot so that all six guys would have been in double figures, but I can't complain. (I also would have loved to see that last Harmon three go down so that the score would have been 9x-7x, but again, I can't complain.)

+ I love a good bot response. I tweeted during the game that I thought the technical foul was on Sencire Harris. A bot read that and just responded:

+ Overall, we accomplished our goal. Michigan's defense is poor, and after a somewhat sluggish first half, we turned it on for 51 points in the second half. Had to win this one on the road. Won this one on the road.

And I should note that we kind of held off a furious Michigan rally as well. You wouldn't know this by looking at the final score, but in the final eight minutes, Michigan hit 10 of 14 shots. Felt like they couldn't miss.

But they trailed by 14 when they hit the first shot in that run and then, after hitting 10 of 14 shots, at the end of the game they lost by… 15. Hitting 10 of 14 shots and being -1 during that run is hard to do.

Another thing that's hard to do: climb a mound of snow when Coleman Hawkins is waiting there to swat you away.