Jenkins taking on role of floor general for Cats (Men’s Basketball)

Zach Silka and Zach Silka

On a night when Michael Jenkins’ alley-oop pass intended for Mohamed Hachad rattled into the basket instead, it appeared Northwestern could not do anything wrong.

With 12:46 left in the first half, Jenkins was on a fast break with guard Mohamed Hachad, and he attempted to loft an alley-oop pass to Hachad.

But instead of Hachad stuffing the ball into the basket, Jenkins’ shot rattled into the hoop for a half-court 3-pointer.

“I threw (the pass) a little short, but it ended up going in and working out for us,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins’ flubbed attempt at style turned half-court 3-pointer occurred in the midst of a 30-6 Northwestern run to begin its 69-53 win against Michigan (13-16, 4-11 Big Ten) on Saturday.

But that wasn’t even the beginning of the theatrics for Jenkins and the Wildcats. Jenkins’ four-point play with 13:01 left in the first half started the surge of highlight-reel material for the Wildcats (14-13, 6-8). While taking a 3-point shot in the corner, Jenkins was fouled by guard Dani Wohl. As they crashed to the ground, the ball swished through the net, and Jenkins converted the ensuing free throw.

Jenkins’ nine points in the game were far from that of leading scorer Vedran Vukusic’s 26 points, but Jenkins’ on-court leadership may be the spark that gives NU a much-needed win in one of its next two games to clinch postseason eligibility.

“A lot of point guards are leaders,” Jenkins said. “Maybe not by scoring a lot, but by actions and hustling and getting everyone else amped up to play hard.

“I just try to do whatever it takes to win a game.”

In addition to his offensive contribution, Jenkins also was a catalyst on defense. His backcourt pressure was a primary reason for Michigan guard Dion Harris committing three turnovers and finishing two points below his scoring average.

“I thought Mike Jenkins really set the tone in the (defensive backcourt) press early on,” NU coach Bill Carmody said. “With the press, (Michigan) couldn’t get into their offense.

“He was important. He came through for us.”

Jenkins finished with a team-high two steals, but more importantly he provided a floor-general presence missing from the team the entire season.

When guard T.J. Parker picked up his second foul with 15:33 left in the first half, Jenkins took over the job of running the team. The Cats responded by going on a 19-0 run.

Walking onto a Big Ten basketball team almost three and a half years ago, the 5-foot-9 Jenkins was probably the most unlikely candidate to become the leader of the Cats.

And after three years at NU, Jenkins was still far from becoming the floor general he is today.

But 27 games into his senior season, Jenkins has become a regular in the Cats’ starting lineup, and he is averaging 4.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

“We always need leadership out there,” Jenkins said. “We just need someone to step up and lead the team. If that’s my role, then I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win.”

Reach Zach Silka at [email protected].