Washington – The toughest part for some of Michigan's basketball players on Thursday was simply getting back on an airplane.
Getting back on the court and beating Illinois 75-55 to reach the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals was easy by comparison.
Michigan's traveling party — players, coaches and families, cheerleaders, dance team and band members — flew into town on the Detroit Pistons' team jet only a few hours before tip-off because its original plane slid off a runway and slammed through a fence during an aborted takeoff a day earlier at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, about 15 miles from the Michigan campus. No one was seriously hurt.
"It was something our kids will always remember, but I want them to always remember how they responded," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Because this is really important. This is the way life goes sometimes, and you've got to respond positively to whatever comes your way. And, boy, did they."
The Wolverines (21-11) played in their practice jerseys because their uniforms hadn't made it to Washington. Derrick Walton scored 19 points and Zak Irvin added 18.
During a meeting attended by players and counselors Wednesday night, Beilein offered the option of forfeiting the game. Some players wondered aloud about driving.
Eventually, the decision was made to play and to fly.
The journey began all over again Thursday, with players waking around 6 a.m., grabbing breakfast at a hotel buffet, boarding the state-of-the-art plane lent by their neighboring NBA team, and landing at 8:45 a.m.
"I was legitimately scared today," sophomore forward Moe Wagner said, "starting and landing."
Michigan arrived at the arena at about 10:35 a.m., and they were playing basketball less than two hours after that (tip-off was delayed about 20 minutes).
As the 28 members of the Michigan pep band, borrowed instruments in hand, filed down the hallway to their seats, an usher stood and patted each one on the back as they passed.
"Really good to see you all," he said softly.
Michigan players said they could never remember Beilein being so emotional after a game.
"I mean, 24 hours ago Derrick Walton was lying on his belly going down a slide and look at what he did this afternoon. Look at what they all did," Beilein said.
Miles Bridges and Nick Ward had 15 points and nine rebounds apiece as Michigan State breezed past Penn State 78-51.
After closing the regular season with losses at Illinois and Maryland, the Spartans found their groove against a Penn State team playing for the second time in less than 24 hours.
Michigan State is now 28-14 in the Big Ten tournament and 101-45 all-time in March under coach Tom Izzo.
"I thought with my guys tonight, we executed a little better and hit our shots," Izzo said. "We got our break going, were pretty good defensively. It's one of the best games we've played this year."
The Spartans (19-13), the defending Big Ten champion, will next face the Gophers in the quarterfinals on Friday.
James Blackmon Jr. and Indiana buried Iowa under a barrage of long-distance shots, and the Hoosiers used a huge second half to notch a 95-73 victory.
Indiana (18-14) used the three-pointer to turn a close game into a rout. It was 48-all before Blackmon, Devonte Green and Josh Newkirk combined to connect five times from behind the arc during a 30-11 blitz.
Indiana went 12-for-20 from three-point range, including 6-for-8 after halftime. Blackmon scored 23 points and De'Ron Davis added 15.
Jordan Bohannon led seventh-seeded Iowa (18-14) with 24 points. The Hawkeyes entered the tournament with a four-game winning streak, including victories over Indiana, Maryland and Wisconsin.
As Northwestern scored basket after basket, guard Bryant McIntosh kept looking at the scoreboard and saw Rutgers was stuck on nine points.
"That was the one thing that stuck with me," he said. "I didn't really gather how much we were scoring on top of that."
It was 31 consecutive points over a stretch of 10 minutes as sixth-seeded Northwestern routed 14th-seeded Rutgers 83-61. Vic Law scored 10 of his 16 points during that 31-0 run that put the game out of reach early.
Rutgers missed 14 shots in a row as Northwestern took over and made a major statement in moving on to the quarterfinals to face Maryland.