Rapid Recap: No. 7 Michigan 67, No. 2 Northwestern 59

Joshua+Hoffman%2FThe+Daily+Northwestern

Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Drew Schott, Reporter


Women’s Basketball


INDIANAPOLIS — It’s fair to say no one expected Northwestern’s run in the Big Ten Tournament to end this early.

The No. 2 Wildcats were stunned by No. 7 Michigan 67-59 in the tournament quarterfinals on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Wolverines — who had three scorers reach double figures — dominated an NU defense tied for second-best in the conference. Despite 15 points from sophomore guard Veronica Burton and 14 points from junior guard Jordan Hamilton, the Cats’ offense couldn’t find its usual groove.

The Wolverines came out firing, taking an early 8-0 lead behind Hailey Brown and Naz Hillmon. NU cut into Michigan’s lead by forcing six turnovers, although the Wolverines still maintained a six-point heading into the back end of the first quarter.

But the Cats received a defensive spark from sophomore forward Courtney Shaw, who forced Hillmon to go scoreless for the rest of the quarter. NU used a 7-0 run over the final four-and-a-half minutes to take a 13-12 lead at the end of the first.

The Big Ten foes traded blows in the early second quarter and Michigan eventually built a four-point lead. But sophomore guard Veronica Burton and junior guard Jordan Hamilton combined to score 13 points and keep NU side-by-side with the Wolverines, who shot 60 percent from the field.

After 10 lead changes during the quarter, Hamilton sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cats a 32-31 lead going into halftime.

But Michigan wasn’t rattled, even as NU expanded their lead in the second half. Despite four points each from Burton and junior guard Lindsey Pulliam, Hillmon and Brown orchestrated a 10-2 run for the Wolverines. Maddie Nolan sank two huge 3-pointers as Michigan took a 49-44 lead on the Cats heading into the final 10 minutes.

The Wolverines continued their momentum into the fourth, as Akienreh Johnson nailed a triple to extend Michigan’s lead to eight, forcing coach Joe McKeown to call a timeout.

But NU quickly flipped the script. Five straight points from Abi Scheid cut the Wolverines’ lead to three. As the Cats started to gain momentum, the team lost it after a missed pull-up jumper from Burton. After grabbing the rebound, the Wolverines used a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 58-49, causing McKeown to call another timeout as the Maize and Blue faithful loudly cheered.

And out of the timeout, NU came firing. A 7-1 run orchestrated by senior guard Byrdy Galernik — who scored four points — brought the Cats within two. Hillmon — who finished with 20 points — scored a clutch layup to give Michigan a 62-57 lead.

Hamilton scored her first points of the second half on a clutch floater, but Brown banked in a huge 3-pointer to extend Michigan’s lead to six. The shot gave the Wolverines a lead it would never relinquish and two free-throws from Brown sealed Michigan’s eight-point upset victory.

Takeaways:

1. NU’s bench showed flashes.
With senior forwards Abi Scheid and Abbie Wolf struggling early on, NU needed players to step up. Hamilton and Shaw rose to the occasion. Shaw played well in the first quarter, deflecting passes and scoring on a beautiful pick-and-roll sent from Hamilton. Hamilton — in addition to her buzzer-beater to end the half — sank a mid-range jump shot with six seconds left in the opening quarter to give NU a one-point lead, before scoring nine points in the following quarter. Shaw finished the half with four points and three rebounds. But Michigan shut down NU’s emerging bench players, as Hamilton made only one of her four field goals in the second half and Shaw scored just two more points and grabbed one more board.

2. Pulliam struggled.

NU’s unanimous All-Big Ten First Team honoree has anchored the Cats’ offense all season, averaging 19.1 points. Pulliam flourished against the Wolverines in January, scoring 32 points, but only dropped four against Michigan in Ann Arbor. Today in Indianapolis was like Pulliam’s February performance. The Meyers Award finalist was held to three points in the first half on 17 percent shooting. Despite scoring five points in the third quarter, Pulliam shot 40 percent from the field and committed two fouls against a Wolverine squad that shot over 70 percent from the free-throw line. In the fourth, Pulliam missed a field goal, sank one of two free-throws and fouled out of the game with 12 seconds remaining.

3. Despite the early exit in Indianapolis, Northwestern will still host an NCAA Tournament game.

As the second-ranked team in the Big Ten Tournament, NU was expected to prevail against Michigan, who it beat twice during the regular season. But the Wolverines prevailed in the matchup that mattered most. The Cats, who were given a No. 3 seed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee earlier this week and ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme, will likely see their ranking drop. However, since the team clinched a share of the regular-season Big Ten title and won 26 conference games, NU will likely not slide past a No. 4 seed for March Madness. If this happens, the team will still host two matchups at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @dschott328

Comments