Men’s Basketball: Wildcats’ offense falters in 25-point home loss to Michigan

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Sophomore Miller Kopp dives for a loose ball. Kopp scored 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

With Northwestern down 15 with just over five minutes to go, sophomore forward Miller Kopp rebounded his own errant shot and put up a second attempt, aiming to will the Wildcats back into the game.

Instead, Michigan center Jon Teske batted the ball away and sent the shot beyond the three-point line. By the time Michigan forward Isaiah Livers threw down a dunk on the other end, any momentum that NU had built in their comeback attempt came to a screeching halt.

The Cats (6-17, 1-12 in Big Ten) struggled across the board in the 79-54 loss, their most lopsided home defeat of the season, but the Wolverines’ stifling of NU’s offense was particularly stark. The Cats shot just 32% from the field and connected on just five of their 21 three-point attempts.

Michigan (15-9, 6-7) missed its first 11 shots of the game, but NU could only muster a pair of makes from graduate transfer guard Pat Spencer over the five-minute span. The Cats built a 13-6 advantage by the 13-minute mark, but failed to respond when the Wolverines finished off the half on a 32-10 run to take command of the game.

“They missed their first eleven shots to start the game and we were up only four to nothing,” NU coach Chris Collins said. “That’s when I knew, because they’re such an explosive offensive team, us not being able to get that separation early came back to haunt us.”

The struggles of the Cats’ starting five were particularly pronounced. Michigan directed its efforts toward stopping forward Miller Kopp, who didn’t hit a three-pointer until nearly 33 minutes into the game and finished just 3-for-12 from the field.

“We knew that they could shoot well from the outside,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “We focused on not giving (Kopp) open looks and making sure that every catch that he caught on the floor, someone was there in his face and ready to contest the shot without fouling.”

NU’s other starters also struggled to score, as the Cats’ freshman trio of Boo Buie, Robbie Beran and Ryan Young combined for 12 points. Spencer, who led all scorers in the first half with eight points, was limited to a single shot attempt and zero points in the second half.

NU’s offense came alive for stretches in the second half and cut into Michigan’s lead. The Cats found some success in the pick-and-roll game when Kopp found freshman forward Jared Jones, who led NU with 12 points off the bench, for a wide open bucket. But even the late runs failed to pull the Cats within striking range, and Michigan extended their lead in the final minutes.

With NU coming off an overtime loss to Rutgers on Sunday, Collins said he thought the mileage showed and was a factor in why the Cats couldn’t get shots to fall.

“I thought we were a step slower tonight,” Collins said. “Sometimes the adjustment is that they have to get some rest and find their legs. I know it’s not effort-wise.”

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