Despite a close first half, the Michigan basketball team pulled ahead like they should have late and defeated Northwestern 74-51. Thanks to the snowstorm hitting the Midwest on Sunday, the crowd was scattered throughout Crisler Center.The first half featured a less than desirable defensive effort which led to easy transition points for the Wildcats. The Wolverines would ultimately come out on top, winning their fourth straight game and improving to 10-4 overall.
What was good
Michigan got off to a slow start offensively, but kicked things into high gear in the second half. For the second consecutive contest, the Wolverines’ big men proved to be effective in Mitch McGary’s absence. Jordan Morgan started and played solid defense, but also contributed offensively. Morgan finished just shy of a double-double, with eight points and eight rebounds in just 18 minutes of action. Jon Horford scored seven and grabbed eight boards in 20 minutes. Michigan will need this kind of productivity in Big Ten play if they hope to maintain this success against some of the conference’s best teams.
Watching this game, you didn’t see one player seem to take over for Michigan. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. There was good balance on offense, with Nik Stauskas leading all scorers with 18 points. Glenn Robinson III looked just fine after leaving the Minnesota game with an injury and finished with 12 points. Derrick Walton added 11 points as well.
Michigan shot over 50 percent from the field even with their early struggles shooting the three. They missed their first six attempts in the first half.
The Wolverines made 18 of their 22 free throws, whereas Northwestern only attempted eight. This was a big difference in the game, as Michigan avoided serious foul trouble and kept the opponent off the stripe.
Stauskas is the team’s best passer and he proved it in this game. His four assists came in tight situations, which is something that nobody else at this time can accomplish on the team. Spike Albrecht’s behind-the-back pass to GRIII in transition led to an emphatic slam that we all love to watch.
Michigan won the rebounding battle by a wide margin, which is something you always want to do. They grabbed 33 rebounds to Northwestern’s 21.
What wasn’t so good
The defense in the first half was anything but acceptable, especially in fast break situations. Northwestern’s Drew Crawford scored 13 of his team high 17 points in the first half, most of which coming in transition. There were multiple scenarios where the Wildcats beat nearly every Michigan player down the floor, leading to easy points. This made the first half closer than it should have been, as Michigan would lead by seven at the half.
The three-point shooting early in the game just wasn’t there. The team missed its first six attempts before Caris LeVert ended the drought as the shot clock buzzer sounded late in the first half. GRIII’s three-point shot hasn’t looked great and he missed all four of his attempts in the game.
Michigan had a hard time containing Crawford early, as he scored 13 of his team’s first 19 points. He was neutralized for the most part in the second half, however, scoring just four points.
While this game was never really in question, the early defensive issues were worrisome. The Northwestern bench looked far too happy early on considering the difference in talent between the two teams. This game shouldn’t have been close that far into the game, but Michigan would eventually put some distance between them and the Wildcats.
Walton played a solid game overall. He didn’t stand out, but he didn’t do much wrong, either. He scored Michigan’s first four points of the game and looked to be the only one ready to play early on.
Stauskas didn’t play well defensively, but his 18 quiet points led the Wolverines. Since the departure of Trey Burke to the NBA, Michigan has lacked that “go to guy”. If anyone fits that mold on this team, it’s Stauskas.
After a huge coming out party against Minnesota on Thursday, Zak Irvin was relatively quiet. The freshman attempted just four shots and hit just one three-pointer, finishing with five points. It was surprising to see him not get some more looks in the game.
The Wolverines will play two very winnable games before heading into a brutal stretch in their schedule. They will travel to Nebraska on the 9th, who has lost three straight, including a beat down from Ohio State. After that, Michigan will host Penn State on the 14th. Then comes a span of three games which includes Wisconsin on the road, Iowa at home, and Michigan State at the Breslin Center.
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