Men’s Basketball: Northwestern starts off hot, can’t hold lead in loss to Michigan


Source: James Coller/The Michigan Daily

Alex Olah (left) defends the paint against an opponent. The senior center led the way for the Wildcats in Wednesday’s loss with 19 points.

Garrett Jochnau, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

With five minutes remaining in Wednesday’s road contest against Michigan, the score sat tied at 54. For the third time in two years, the Wildcats found themselves locked in a nail-biter with the Wolverines, who were eyeing revenge after dropping the previous contest against Northwestern in a double-overtime spectacle.

But the Cats (17-11, 5-10 Big Ten) never mustered the magic necessary to pull through in this installation of the classic matchup. Coach Chris Collins and company watched another winnable contest escape their collective grasp as Michigan (20-9, 10-6) pulled away in the closing minutes to win, 72-63.

“I just thought the game came down to the last five minutes and quite frankly I just thought that Michigan’s guys were tougher than our guys,” Collins said. “When the game was there to be won, I thought they made the plays that they had to make.”

In dire need of a win, NU exploded out of the gate to claim the game’s first ten points. Senior center Alex Olah paved the way from the onset, scoring 14 on 6-of-11 shooting at the break.

But after leading by as many as 13, the Cats’ shooting dried up and the team found itself scoreless for a four-minute stretch as Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. carried his Wolverines into striking territory. Freshman forward Aaron Falzon had opened the contest with a pair of 3s, but failed to score again in the first period while senior guard Tre Demps and sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh combined to go 1-of-6 from deep, the latter failing to score until after the break.

“They were selling out on McIntosh and Demps,” Collins said. “They trapped them on everything … and that’s why Alex and Aaron and Gavin (Skelly) had open shots, because their whole game plan was to try to take our guards away.”

Demps and McIntosh would eventually tally 14 and 4 points, respectively.

The second half began in similar fashion. Falzon — who finished with 14 — hit his first two 3s as NU extended its lead.

But once again, the Cats failed to capitalize off the momentum and allowed Michigan to slash the deficit until guard Aubrey Dawkins connected from deep with just over 11 minutes remaining to tie the game at 44.

And when an NU foul put Michigan in the bonus and at the line, shooting for the lead, the Cats’ hot starts to both quarters were rendered meaningless.

The teams went back and forth in a finish that recalled elements of last year’s nail biters between the squads. But down the stretch, the Wolverines held NU’s scorers in check and consistently found their way to the charity stripe, sealing their revenge and further bolstering their tournament resume.

Meanwhile, the Cats will head into Saturday’s contest against Rutgers having once again let a prime opportunity slip through their fingers.

“We had our chances,” Collins said. “We put ourselves in position to win. We just couldn’t make the plays down the stretch.”

This story was updated with postgame quotes.

Twitter: @GarrettJochnau