No. 17 Michigan 59, W. Illinois 55
John Beilein gave his team credit for consistency, at least.
"We were average in both halves," the Michigan coach said.
Average was good enough Thursday night, when the 17th-ranked Wolverines held off Western Illinois 59-55. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points and Trey Burke added 14 for Michigan, which takes on Memphis on Monday in the Maui Invitational.
That game - and whatever matchups follow in Hawaii - should give the Wolverines (3-0) a much stiffer test than they've faced so far.
"We're going to learn a lot about them, because we're going to be playing incredible quickness, incredible length," Beilein said. "These games, we're going to have to shoot the ball and not have careless turnovers."
Michigan led by five with 3:06 remaining when Western Illinois' Obi Emegano missed a free throw that would have completed a three-point play, and Hardaway scored at the other end to make it 53-46.
Jordan Morgan added 11 points for Michigan.
"We needed a game like that, to kind of wake us up a little bit," Morgan said. "Not just wake us up - get used to playing in those situations where we've got to knock down free throws late, and we've got to get key stops and key baskets. We needed to feel that pressure."
Western Illinois (0-2) lost its 15th straight game, a slide that dates to Jan. 15. Ceola Clark III led the Leathernecks with 21 points, and Terell Parks contributed 11.
Trailing 30-28 early in the second half, Michigan went on an 11-2 run to take the lead for good. Morgan capped the stretch with an impressive sequence in which he scored, blocked a shot, then scored another basket inside to give the Wolverines a 39-32 lead.
Michigan opened the season with a win over Division II Ferris State last week, then handed Towson its 21st consecutive loss. Western Illinois gave the Wolverines their toughest game yet.
The Leathernecks shot 6 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half and entered halftime tied at 28. Despite the run early in the second by the Wolverines, Western Illinois trailed by only four and had the ball when Hardaway drew a charging foul with 8:13 to play.
Morgan's layup off an offensive rebound made it 48-42, and Parks fouled out with 6:30 remaining, hurting Western Illinois' chances. Hardaway made a 3-pointer to push the lead to nine, and the Leathernecks called a timeout with 5:01 left.
The teams finished with a combined 38 fouls after committing only 11 in the first half.
Western Illinois was dealt another blow when Clark went down with cramping in his right leg with 4:05 remaining. He came back with 2:37 to play.
This was Clark's first game in nearly a year after a toe injury ended his 2010-11 season after six games.
"It was tough to lose Ceola down the stretch," Western Illinois coach Jim Molinari said. "We had to play without him all of last season, and he missed the opener, and he's really the player that controls everything for us down the floor."
Billy Molinari, the coach's son, lost the ball when he fell to the floor with a left knee injury at the 2:09 mark. Jim Molinari said it looks like a torn ACL.
Michigan trailed 10-7 before going on an 11-0 run during the first half. Clark answered with two 3-pointers - sandwiched around another shot from beyond the arc by Tommie Tyler - to pull the Leathernecks even at 19.
"They exposed us a little bit in some areas where we have to work on and get better," Hardaway said. "They had veteran guards out there, so they were controlling the game for their team."