Illinois basketball wasn't taking on a great Michigan team, but this was a must-win game for the Orange and Blue.
The Illini came out of the gates looking great and never looked back. Michigan was able to keep the game close throughout the first half, but that was due to some great offense by the Wolverines.
That offense would eventually dwindle in the second half. Illinois kept punching, and Michigan didn't have an answer. A one-point halftime lead for the Illini turned into an 88-73 win over the Wolverines.
Here are five observations from the Illinois basketball win over Michigan
1. Coleman Hawkins just had his best game ever
The emergence of superstar Coleman Hawkins is fun to watch. He has always been a unicorn with the way he plays at the size he plays at, but the Hawkins we are seeing on the court is better than a unicorn.
I would argue this is the best game I have ever seen Hawkins play at Illinois. He finished with a stat line of 21 points, 10 rebounds, six steals, four assists, and one block. He did all of this while shooting an efficient 6-of-10, 60%, from the field and 3-of-5, 60%, from three-point range. He also knocked down all six free throws he attempted.
Points-wise, Hawkins’ 21 points against Michigan was the second-most of his career, only second to the Eastern Illinois performance last season when he put up 23 points.
Hawkins notched a new career high in steals against the Wolverines too. His six steals on Thursday night beat out the 2021 performance against Jackson State when he had four steals.
But, honestly, it was Hawkins’ efficiency that put him over the top for me. This is only the second time he has attempted at least six free throws and has converted them all. In 2023, he was also 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. And, on top of all of these great numbers, Hawkins failed to have a turnover.
I have never seen Hawkins play this efficient of a game in my entire life. This was the best game of his Illinois career. I would take it a step further and say, this might be the best game I have ever seen an Illinois basketball player play in my lifetime. We watched a special night by a special player.