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Men’s Basketball: NU returns from 15 point deficit only to fall by two to No. 5 Michigan

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Men’s Basketball: NU returns from 15 point deficit only to fall by two to No. 5 Michigan

Ryan Taylor pulls up for a jumper. The graduate guard missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired.

Ryan Taylor pulls up for a jumper. The graduate guard missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired.

Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer

Ryan Taylor pulls up for a jumper. The graduate guard missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired.

Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer

Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer

Ryan Taylor pulls up for a jumper. The graduate guard missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired.

Peter Warren, Sports Editor

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Men’s Basketball


Four winters ago, Tre Demps hit two game-tying three-pointers — one with 2.4 left in regulation and another with 3.2 left in OT — in a 82-78 win over Michigan.

Two winters ago, Dererk Pardon buried the most consequential and infamous shot in Northwestern history against the Wolverines.

But Tuesday night, the magic of Welsh-Ryan Arena was not able to give the Wildcats the edge against Michigan.

Down two points with 11 seconds remaining, NU (6-3, 0-2 Big Ten) was unable to get into its initial look and forced to go to a secondary read. The ball bounced around and ended up in the hands of graduate guard Ryan Taylor, whose last-second shot from way beyond the arc hit off the glass and bounced off the rim as time expired as the No. 5 Wolverines (9-0, 2-0) escaped Evanston undefeated with a 62-60 win.

“It was supposed to be a loop cut over the top with me and then into a crackback flair screen for Ryan Taylor coming back to the right side,” senior forward Vic Law said. “They did a pretty good job and switched it and we tried to set a flatball screen but Michigan was pretty locked in.”

Law inbounded the ball on the right side of the court with Pardon and Taylor at the elbows, junior forward A.J. Turner in the paint and sophomore guard Anthony Gaines in the far corner. Turner ran up from the paint to receive the inbounds pass and Law immediately ran into the loop cut.

But Michigan guards Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews seamlessly switched the ballscreen between Law and Taylor, meaning the pass to Law was unavailable. Pardon then set a screen for Taylor, who was also heavily guarded.

Turner and Pardon then went into a pick-and-roll situation. Wolverines center Jon Teske hedged the ballscreen, forcing Turner to fumble the basketball and pass to Taylor. With three seconds left, Taylor was able to get Matthews to jump in the air and give himself room to take the off-balance shot from way beyond the arc.

“Michigan guarded it well. They talked well. They switched out,” Collins said. “Even though it wasn’t the shot we wanted, credit (Taylor) to getting something up on the glass and giving us a chance to at least get a shot that might go in.”

The final shot was the culmination of a second-half sequence that saw the Cats fall behind by 15 points, but take the lead about ten minutes later.

After going down 45-30, NU went on a 15-2 run behind baskets from each member of the Cats’ main lineup — Gaines, Law, Pardon, Taylor and Turner — to cut the lead to 47-45. Michigan extended the lead to 51-45 but then Law made his presence known. On back-to-back possessions, the senior forward — who finished with 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting and seven bounds — drained three-pointers to take the 52-51 lead at the 6:32 mark.

After that, the two Big Ten foes traded baskets and stops for the rest of the game. Neither team gained a lead of more than three points. Michigan took the 62-60 lead with about 100 seconds remaining when Poole faked to his right and blew by Taylor for a slam dunk.

The only two substitutions that occured for NU during the final 15:55 of the game were when Pardon got hurt and had to be taken out and when he came back in two and a half minutes later. During that stretch, the Cats scored 28 points to the Wolverines’ 17.

“I found a group in the second half that got us back in the game,” Collins said. “So I just went with those guys on a gut feel.”

Collins said the big defensive adjustment the team made involved Michigan point guard Zavier Simpson. The sixth-year coach viewed Simpson as “the head of the snake” and worked to give him different looks, keep him out of the paint and force him to take jumpers. The strategy worked extremely well, and Simpson spent much of crunch time on the bench.

Another thing Collins said was important was putting Gaines on Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-18 shooting.

In the first half, Pardon was the main reason the Wolverines did not run away with the game. The senior center scored 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Aside from Pardon, the Cats were only 5-for-18 from the field. Law ended the first half with one of the shots of NU’s young season. The senior hit a three-pointer from a few feet beyond the arc as the shot clock expired to cut the deficit to six and give the Cats some momentum heading into halftime6.

“I thought tonight was a heck of a college basketball game. The environment was everything we dreamed it could be when we thought about what the new Welsh-Ryan could be,” Collins said. “We believed we had a team that could win the game tonight. Did we play well and fight? Yes, but please don’t ask me if I’m happy. Cause I’m not. Cause we wanted to win.”

For the first time since Welsh-Ryan reopened last month, there was a distinguishable energy that was pervasive throughout the arena for the entire game. The announced crowd of 7,039 gave the game a late-season feel to it.

At one point late in the second half, Collins got on his knees and emphatically slapped the ground on an important defensive possession.

Wolverines coach John Beilein said his team survived the game and added that he is happy they sneaked out of Evanston with a victory.

“Playing these Big Ten games right now, many of you have been here for February dogfights right here between us and Northwestern, was there any difference?” Beilein said.

Michigan has not lost a regular season game since the Cats beat them 61-52 at Allstate Arena on Feb. 6. During that time frame, the only one the Wolverines have lost is the 2018 National Championship game against Villanova.

This season, NU is the only team to play Michigan close down the stretch. Before Tuesday, the Wolverines never won by less than double-digits and beat ranked Villanova, North Carolina and Purdue by 27, 17 and 19 points, respectively.

“They just seemed like they were ready for whatever,” Law said. “As we move forward, it is very apparent that we can hang with whoever we play with. Michigan is the No. 5 team in the country and they are worthy of the No. 5 team in the country. But you better put some respect on Northwestern cause we are hanging with everybody.”

Email: peterwarren2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @thepeterwarren

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