Michigan Holds On, Beats Northwestern 62-60 in Evanston

Michigan Holds On, Beats Northwestern 62-60 in Evanston

Basketball

Michigan Holds On, Beats Northwestern 62-60 in Evanston

For whatever reason, Illinois is a difficult place to play for the Wolverines. Between last season’s matchup at Northwestern taking place at Rosemont, as the Wildcats regular home court was under renovation construction, and the two contests previous played in Evanston, Michigan had lost three straight to the Big Ten West foe.

And while Tuesday night’s contest at Northwestern was with its fair share of struggles, the Wolverines improved to 9-0 on the season, defeating the Wildcats 62 to 60 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Despite having a 10 point lead early in the first-half, the Wolverines had some uncharacteristic gaffes on the offensive side of the floor, turning the ball over three straight times and getting cold when shots were going up. Northwestern, meanwhile, was hitting contested shots, even going right at center Jon Teske, who was in prime position defensively. Still, the ball fell in, and the deficit closed in a hurry, with the Wildcats clawing back and making it a 3 point game. Michigan asserted its will once again, pushing the lead to 12, but Northwestern hit a long three-point shot to make what looked like was going to be a 9-point Wolverines lead going into the half a 6 point game.

Every other game this season, Michigan proved to be a second-half team. And it looked like it could be like most others for the maize and blue, as Michigan jumped out to a 15-point lead quickly at the outset of the final 20 minute period. But Northwestern not only hung around, but went on a 15-2 run, cutting the deficit to a mere 2 points. Point guard Zavier Simpson who drove the lane and made one of his three Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-style sky hooks to stop the bleeding and get the Wolverines back in rhythm offensively.

At least for a moment.

Michigan pushed the lead back to six, but a five-plus minute Wolverines drought saw the Wildcats take the lead for the first time with 6:32 remaining in the game. The two teams traded blows from that point forward, with back-to-back threes by freshman phenom Ignas Brazdeikis and sophomore point guard Eli Brooks keeping the Wildcats’ momentum from truly taking hold.

From there, it was a battle of wills, and the Wolverines survived, aided by an uncontested Jordan Poole dunk with just under 2 minutes left in the game. An offensive foul by Northwestern’s Ryan Taylor put the ball back in Michigan’s hands, and the Wolverines had a chance to grow the lead again, but old habits returned, as fourth-year guard Charles Matthews – who was quiet in the game with just 3 points – traveled. Northwestern couldn’t capitalize offensively, however, but defensively, a shot clock violation put the game in the Wildcats’ hands with just 14.2 seconds left, down two.

But the Michigan defense stepped up, and the three-point attempt by Ryan Taylor as time expired bounced off the backboard then the rim, preserving the Wolverines undefeated season.

Northwestern’s defense frustrated the Wolverines, as Michigan shot only 44% in this game, and 25% from three – though the offense started out hot. Michigan scored on its first four possessions – whether by shot or by free throws – but the shooting cooled off in a big way once the Wildcats settled in on the Wolverines side of the floor.

Jordan Poole started the game, continuing his hot hand from Saturday’s 5-for-5 performance from behind the arc against Purdue. But his shot grew cold. He was fouled on his first three-point attempt (and made all three foul shots), and hit his next attempt. But ultimately, he went 1-for-5 from three – though still managed to put up 15 points overall.

Up next, Michigan takes on South Carolina at noon on Saturday at Crisler Center.

Follow @WolverinesWire / @IsaiahHole

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