Same game, same ending for Northwestern and Michigan

Dan Ryan

If Northwestern altered its game plan since it lost to Michigan on Jan. 11 in Ann Arbor, Mich., it was not evident on the stat sheet.

After losing to the Wolverines in overtime the last time the teams met, the Wildcats staged a repeat performance Tuesday, falling to No. 11 Michigan, 67-55, after another extra session.

NU had 14 turnovers and only 3 3-pointers on Tuesday, both stats that were reminiscent of the team’s 15-turnover, 6 3-pointer showing just more than a month earlier.

As if these numbers were not enough to draw a parallel, NU entered the second half of both games with a 7-point lead.

Coach Bill Carmody said the sloppy play in the second half was unacceptable.

“We turned the ball over 14 times,” Carmody said. “It’s not unlike the game in Ann Arbor where we turned the ball over the same amount. Those are possessions that you don’t get back. It looked sloppy to me, that second half. We can’t win and it’s not acceptable to have 14 turnovers.”

The Cats began the game looking like the polar opposite of the team that lived and died by the 3 all season, keeping the Wolverines out of the paint and controlling the glass on both ends of the floor. Senior forward Davide Curletti helped give NU an inside presence with 3 offensive rebounds and 7 points before halftime.

“Davide had a very good first half, really helped us coming off the bench, energizing us,” Carmody said. “And we out-rebounded them pretty well. I think we had 8 offensive rebounds in the first half.”

It’s not often that NU out-rebounds its opponent – the Cats haven’t done so since their Feb. 5 win over Illinois – and it’s even less often that it out-rebounds its opponent and loses. This is exactly what happened, however, as the Cats grabbed 4 more rebounds than the Wolverines. Instead, Michigan took a page from NU’s book, hitting 14 3-pointers to the Cats’3.

“We definitely didn’t hit as many as we usually do,” Curletti said. “We were able to crash the boards on them a little bit. It might have been different if we’d have hit more 3s, because we were doing a great job on the glass, which is not something we’re known for.”

Carmody said the poor showing from behind the arc was a combination of the Michigan defense and senior forward John Shurna’s hesitance all game.

“They switch everything,” Carmody said. “But other teams do that, too. They did a pretty nice job on it. And it seemed early on that John, the whole game, he was reluctant to do anything. He had some pretty good looks and he passed them up.”

Shurna finished with 14 points, more than 6 points below his average, and hit only two 3’s in the contest.

Michigan, meanwhile, found holes in NU’s 1-3-1 zone and consistently drained shots from beyond the arc.

“What comes to mind was the three 3’s they hit in overtime,” junior guard Reggie Hearn said. “Maybe that’s just a product of them getting used to the 1-3-1 (zone defense). They made the adjustments, and we didn’t make the adjustments back. They hit them, and we were 3-for-16.”

Despite the loss, NU still has an opportunity to realize its dream of making the NCAA Tournament if the Cats can mount a run in their remaining three games of the regular season. It will be tough, but Hearn said the team is ready to face the challenge.

“We’ll be fine,” Hearn said. “We still have a lot to play for, definitely. This is a tough loss, but we’re just going to look at it as we fought hard, we lost to a good team. But there’s still a lot left to play for.”

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