Men’s Basketball: Northwestern falls at Michigan despite hot start


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Jordan Ash holds the ball. The junior guard and the rest of the Northwestern bench struggled Monday, combining for only 6 points.

Joseph Wilkinson, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

For a moment, it looked like Northwestern was about to do it. Halfway through the first half, the Wildcats were leading 14-5 and Michigan had more turnovers than made field goals. Maybe, NU could pull out a signature victory that had been missing from the team’s resume all season.

And then, the wheels fell off the offense, which scored 5 points in the rest of the half and went the final 7:06 without scoring a point. The Wolverines (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten) carried a 10-0 run into a 21-19 halftime lead, scored the first 5 points of the second half and eventually pulled away for a 58-47 victory.

“Really the game got away from us in the first half,” coach Chris Collins said. “They were having a real hard time scoring against us, and we couldn’t extend that lead. … You hold them to 21, we needed to be up double figures at half, especially on the road.”

The Cats (13-10, 4-6) struggled offensively after the opening minutes, finishing a measly 38 percent from the field. NU was especially poor from 3-point range, making only four of its 16 shots from behind the arc, the team’s third-lowest percentage on the season.

Excluding redshirt sophomore forward Aaron Falzon, who went 2-for-3 from long range, the team combined to shoot 15 percent from deep.

“They’re locked in (defensively),” Collins said. “They have good length and athleticism. … They’ve made a lot of strides on that end. … Normally for them, they don’t win a game 58-47.”

On the defensive end, the Cats held Michigan to its second-lowest point total of the season, but NU’s zone defense still struggled to force turnovers despite its newly implemented trapping style.

The Wolverines had only five giveaways, with only two coming after the opening 10 minutes. Though Michigan shot only 28 percent from 3-point range, they missed multiple open looks. Forward Duncan Robinson, who was shooting 38 percent from deep coming into the game, missed multiple open looks and missed all six of his 3s.

“Our guys really believe (in the zone),” Collins said. “They’ve gotten to be pretty good at it. Against a team like Michigan, too, when they spread you with a guy like (Wolverines forward Mo) Wagner, it’s even harder when you’re playing zone against them because they can move him around as a 5-man who can shoot the ball.”

Senior guard Scottie Lindsey led NU on the scoresheet, posting one of his most efficient games of the year with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting. No one else had more than 9 points, however, and senior guard Bryant McIntosh and junior forward Vic Law combined to shoot 5-for-18 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

The Cats were also beset by things that had plagued them earlier this season, committing 16 turnovers and getting only 6 points off the bench — all from Falzon. But Collins remained optimistic about the team’s chances in the closing stretch of the season.

“We’ve put four pretty good games together in a row,” Collins said. “I’m feeling good about how we’re playing now. We dug ourselves a big hole, there’s no question. There’s very, very little margin for error this second half of the season, and our guys have to play with that sense of urgency.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson