ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Ticker) -- With his team's undefeated season in serious jeopardy, Dee Brown stole a victory for top-ranked Illinois.
Brown, who scored 16 points, keyed a second-half comeback with tenacious defense and pinpoint passing as the Fighting Illini rallied for a 57-51 Big Ten Conference victory over a game Michigan squad.
"I just wanted to make plays -- get a couple of steals to get us back into it," Brown said. "It blows me away when people say you have to lose to learn something. We learned from this game, and we learned from the other close games we've played. We've won ugly a couple times. You can't win them all by 20 points."
Brown made three steals on four Michigan possessions late in the second half, then fed James Augustine with a behind-the-back pass for a dunk with 4:25 left to give Illinois - which trailed by eight points early in the half - a 47-42 lead.
"That was an inspired effort by Dee Brown," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "He's electrifying. He ignites them in so many ways. Tonight it was defense, and he made that pass to Augustine. He made everything happen for them tonight."
Illinois (24-0, 10-0 Big Ten) is the only remaining undefeated Division I team. Fourth-ranked Boston College lost at Notre Dame on Tuesday, 68-65.
"It's something to be proud of," Illini coach Bruce Weber said. "It shows how tough the kids are, their poise and their will to win." The reeling Wolverines (12-12, 3-7) - once again without suspended star guard Daniel Horton - had lost six straight games and figured to be no match for Illinois, which had won 19 straight conference contests overall and nine in a row in the series.
But Michigan held Illinois without a basket for an 11:54 span bridging the halves and opened a 34-26 cushion when Dion Harris split a pair of free throws with 14:50 to play.
Michigan tried to use up the shot clock on every possession. It was a tactic that Indiana used with some success on Sunday against the Illini, and Amaker figured that strategy would give the Wolverines their best chance of springing the upset.
"We tried to shorten the game," Amaker said. "If the game is shortened it gives the team that's less talented a better chance. We had some momentum with that plan.
"But in order to come through, we can't shoot 50 percent from the free-throw line, and we can't allow them to take the ball from us and run down the court for an easy layup. We saw why that team is as good as it is. They had a chance to fold and wilt under pressure, but they just dug it out."
Weber complimented Amaker on his strategy.
"Tommy really pulled out all the stops," Weber said. "They changed their system. They delayed us, put us on defense and they took it to the end of the shot clock. They tried to keep it a low-possession game, like Indiana did and other people are going to do. To Tommy's credit, they've been down and he found a way to get his guys motivated and they played a good ballgame. We were just able to make enough plays down the stretch."
The Wolverines held a 39-35 lead before Brown stole the ball and converted a layup with 9:15 to play. After a Michigan basket, Brown twice more jumped into passing lanes, snatched the ball and raced downcourt for layups. He was fouled after his third layup in the burst and sank the free throw to give his team the lead for good, 42-41, with 7:54 remaining.
Brown said that the Illini felt that they had to force the issue.
"Coach always says if you want to be a player you have to make plays," Brown said. "It's hard when they spread it out like that but I tried to get into the lanes and make some plays." Luther Head added 14 points and Augustine 10 for Illinois, which shot just 38 percent (9-of-24) in the first half as it entered the break behind, 28-24. But the Illini made half of their 24 attempts in the second half and held the Wolverines without a basket for more than six minutes down the stretch to take control.
Harris scored 21 points and Courtney Sims 15 for Michigan, which made only 7-of-14 free throws.