Men’s Basketball: In 19-point loss, No. 19 Northwestern outpaced by No. 16 Michigan’s hot 3-point shooting


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore guard Boo Buie launches a three against Ohio State. The Wildcats struggled from behind the arc against No. 16 Michigan, connecting on just five of 18 attempts.

John Riker, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

In a surprising 6-2 start to the 2020-21 season, No. 19 Northwestern has held its own against some of the nation’s top teams. But in Sunday’s road match against No. 16 Michigan, the Wildcats failed to show that same characteristic competitiveness, falling 85-66.

The Wolverines (9-0, 4-0 in Big Ten) dominated the Wildcats (6-3, 3-2) on both ends of the floor, but the difference in the teams’ performances from three-point territory was particularly pronounced. Michigan connected on nine first-half treys while holding the Cats to just five makes on 18 attempts on the night, handing NU its second consecutive loss after a 3-0 start in conference play.

“Some of them were wide open,” coach Chris Collins said. “And three or four were contested and they made them. That’s what makes them very difficult.”

Improved three-point shooting has been one of the hallmarks of NU’s ascension to the AP Top 25. The Cats came into Sunday’s contest leading the Big Ten in three-point accuracy (42.4 percent) and ranked second in volume (10.1 per game). In the first half against Michigan, the roles flipped.

After starting off the game with three turnovers in their first four possessions, the Wolverines found success from behind the arc. Michigan connected on five of five three-point tries to spark a 21-6 run and take advantage of a slow start by the NU offense.

“They got into a great rhythm,” Collins said. “Their offense was humming. We took a look at the zone to see if it could slow them down a little bit.”

The Cats adjusted midway through the first half by switching to a zone defense to disrupt Michigan’s rhythm. That switch slowed the Wolverines for a couple possessions, but didn’t last.

Michigan ended the half with three-pointers on three consecutive possessions, boosting a lead that NU had cut to five points into a 43-29 halftime advantage. The Wolverines finished the half with nine makes in 17 attempts from three, with contributions from five different Michigan players.

“We cut it to five, and then they hit the three threes,” Collins said. “I thought that was the key moment of the game to push it to 14 at the half. We never were able to put any game pressure on them after halftime.”

NU’s lack of deep shooting was just as glaring. The Cats attempted just six shots from behind the arc in the first half, with its only makes coming on consecutive shots from sophomore guard Chase Audige.

Michigan extended its lead to start the second half, pounding the Cats in the post after having established its presence on the perimeter. Center Hunter Dickinson, held to just four first-half points, tallied 15 in the second.

The Wolverine defense didn’t ease up, either. Michigan forced NU into contested looks and held the Cats to their lowest scoring output of the season en route to an 85-66 Wolverine victory.

“Sometimes we can talk about the things we didn’t do, and certainly we can do better in certain areas,” Collins said. “But this was an example of Michigan being the better team tonight. They executed, they defended when they needed to.”

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