Men’s Basketball: Michigan routs Northwestern the second time around


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Ryan Taylor goes up for a layup. The graduate guard had 15 points, though his teammates struggled from the field in their 80-60 loss.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Coach Chris Collins has now played 80 minutes against Michigan — twice as many as any other coach — after playing the Wolverines twice this season. After all that time, he said he’s still puzzled by how to stop the clever point guard, the fearless two-guard and the unpredictable forward that lead the No. 2 team in the country.

In his second chance against the Michigan after losing by 2 points in December, Collins emptied out the toolbox in trying to stop the Wolverines without senior forward Vic Law.

But Michigan (17-0, 6-0 Big Ten) led wire-to-wire in its 80-60 win over Northwestern (10-7, 1-5) as the Wildcats watched four potential NBA prospects combine for 48 points, while fifth starter Zavier Simpson led the way with 24 points himself.

“That’s probably why they’re 17 and 0,” Collins said. “When you play them, you’ve got to figure out what are some things you can (say) you’re going to live with because they space you so well, they’re really good at every position. We were going to live with some Simpson threes and some Teske threes, so give those guys a lot of credit.”

Hoping to put a jolt in an offense that scored 63 points Wednesday against Iowa and was without its best player, Collins shook up the starting lineup and added two players who haven’t opened a game all season. Sophomore guard Anthony Gaines stepped out of his sixth man role, and freshman forward Pete Nance — who spurned the Wolverines for NU on the recruiting circuit — joined the starters as well.

In what could have been a perfect storm for the highly-touted forward who’s struggled so far this season, Nance finished with 4 points, and that new starting lineup conceded a 10-0 run to open the game. It wasn’t the only risk Collins took over the first 20 minutes: he played rarely-used junior forward Aaron Falzon, gave senior center Dererk Pardon free reign to shoot four 3-point shots and allowed graduate guard Ryan Taylor more on-ball responsibility.

“Our young guys got a lot of experience,” Collins said. “A lot of guys got a chance to go out there against a great team on the road, and hopefully this experience helps us as we move forward.”

Pardon led the Cats with 20 points and made nearly half of their field goals, but not without Law stirring the drink NU shot 43 percent from the field and 24 percent from beyond the arc.

On the other side, Michigan hung 50 points in the first half following a 19-6 run before the break and had four players in double figures for the game. It was a strong offensive showing for a Wolverines team that set the school record for the best start to the season with Sunday’s win.

Collins said it was an uphill battle responding from the blows dealt by a team that’s in the top 20 in the NCAA in offensive and defensive efficiency and has quickly established itself as the frontrunner in the Big Ten.

“When you play 17 games and 15 of them are double figure (wins) you’ve got a really good thing going,” Collins said. “They don’t have many very any flaws, they’re very well coached on both ends. They make it hard.”

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