Men’s Basketball: Michigan blows out Northwestern to kick off Big Ten play

Dan Ryan, Reporter

Northwestern got its first taste of life in this year’s Big Ten against Michigan, and there was little reason for coach Bill Carmody to like what he saw.

The Wildcats suffered a 94-66 throttling at the hands of the No. 2 Wolverines on Thursday, getting dominated in nearly every aspect of the game.

Michigan opened the game on a 10-0 run, which quickly became a 16-4 lead, and the Wolverines coasted through much of the rest of the first half with a 20-point margin in their back pocket. Michigan entered the half with a 21-point lead, made 5 more threes and out-rebounded NU 23-11 in the frame.

“We just got off to such a horrible start,” Carmody said. “What was it? 10-0? 12-0? And we really just weren’t able to stop them the entire evening. What we have to do as a staff is just coach these young guys, and coach them hard. We have to get better at everything.”

The Wolverines shut down the Cats’ offense, notably holding sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski, one of NU’s most experienced remaining scorers, to 2 points and 4 assists in the half. Freshman center Alex Olah paced the team with 10 points.

Fans of last year’s team will notice few of the familiar faces running the Princeton offense this season. Gone are John Shurna, Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb, but still noticeably present were the lack of rebounding, poor interior defense and shoddy perimeter passing that plagued the 2011-2012 squad.

The Cats’ had an especially hard time on defense and were unable to stop the Wolverines from getting to the basket by using either man-to-man or the 1-3-1 zone.

“We were just trying to throw them off balance,” senior guard Alex Marcotullio said. “They scored on I don’t know how many straight possessions against our man-to-man, so you have to do something to switch it up and keep them off balance. We went to the 1-3-1, and they continued to work on that, too.”

In fact, the lack of experience seemed to be the only thing separating Thursday’s team from the Wildcats that put up back-to-back, double-digit losses against Minnesota and Wisconsin last season.

The Cats struggled to stay within 20 in the second half, and Michigan continued to pour it on, taking a 28-point lead into a media timeout with 7:35 left in regulation. NU had a particularly hard time guarding Michigan guard Trey Burke, who torched the Cats for 23 points and seemed to score at will.

“(Burke)’s a good player. That’s why everyone is talking about him being one of the frontrunners for player of the year,” Sobolewski said. “Like coach said, he does a lot of things to make his teammates better, and there’s not one thing you can take away from him. He can do everything.”

A 3-pointer by Michigan’s Nik Stauskas stretched the Wolverines’ margin to 30, causing fans to head to the exits and Michigan to put their subs in the game. At the end of the game, the stat sheet told the whole story: zero ties, zero lead changes.

NU now hits the road for another tough matchup, this time against No. 9 Minnesota. For the Cats to pull out a win away from home, where they struggled last season, Carmody said the team will need to play a different style than it has been.

“We might have to change the way we play, maybe slow it down a little bit,” Carmody said. “Because the last four or five years, we’ve been going up and down the court, scoring a lot. We had a lot of drills where that’s what we did: shot the ball quickly. We had the team to do that, but right now I don’t know that that’s the case. In fact, I know it probably is not the case.”