Rapid Recap: Michigan 85, Northwestern 78


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior forward Robbie Beran goes up for a reverse layup. Beran tallied 16 points in Northwestern’s 85-78 loss to Michigan on Sunday.

Alex Cervantes, Senior Staffer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Fresh off a heartbreaking three-point loss to Rutgers on Wednesday, Northwestern traveled east on Sunday for a rendezvous with Michigan. In what became a back-and-forth affair, the Wolverines pulled away late, winning 85-78.

The Wildcats (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) got behind the proverbial 8-ball after a lifeless start to open the game. Offensive sequences marred by a lack of movement, poor shot selection and turnovers enabled Michigan (10-7, 4-2) to build a double-digit advantage. But behind the play of senior forward Robbie Beran and some crucial bench production, NU was able to take the lead in the first half, heading into halftime up 39-37.

Out of the break, the Wolverines and the Cats exchanged blows, countering with mini-runs up until the midway point in the second half. Fueled by a 10-0 run late in the half and the play of guards Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin alongside star center Hunter Dickinson, Michigan was able to hold off NU. 

Here are three takeaways from the Cats’ clash with the Wolverines.


1. After slow start, NU roars back to life

NU’s approach at the beginning of Sunday’s clash was simultaneously devoid of energy and sloppy on both ends. 

The Cats appeared to be sleepwalking offensively in the game’s opening minutes, settling for deep triples and turning the ball over at an alarming rate. NU posted five turnovers in the first frame, of which senior guard Boo Buie was responsible for four, with all occurring by the 11:25 mark. The Cats subsequently found themselves in an 18-8 deficit by the under-12 media timeout.

Coach Chris Collins was desperately searching for a response and found the answer in Beran and sophomore guards Brooks Barnhizer and Julian Roper II. 

Over the final 10 minutes of the first half NU’s play made a complete-180, closing on a 31-17 run. The resurgence was fueled by the dynamic display both offensively and defensively from the aforementioned trio. 

Adopting a small-ball lineup because of junior center Matthew Nicholson’s early foul trouble, NU chipped away at the deficit thanks in large part to Beran’s shooting and the sophomore duo’s effort defensively. The trio combined for 23 of NU’s 39 first half points on 9-of-16 shooting, helping secure a 39-37 advantage at the intermission. 

2. No Headband? No problem.

Though no longer sporting the briefly iconic head wrap and headband, Beran’s adept play against the Wolverines provided the Cats with a much-needed lift. 

Operating in both his traditional off-ball role on the wing and as a small-ball five, Beran was NU’s best player on the day. “Headband Robbie” may be gone, but the Virginia native’s shooting and defensive effort helped kickstart the Cats’ first half rebound. 

His ability to pick-and-pop on ball screens — a skill neither Nicholson nor graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven possess — and attack Michigan  bigs off the bounce gave the Wolverines  trouble. Beran knocked down two first half triples, including the shot that claimed NU’s first lead, en route to 12 first-half points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting.

Still, Beran’s second half was mired by foul trouble, which hurt the Cats. He picked up his fourth personal with over eight minutes to play and wouldn’t re-enter until late in the frame. He finished the game with 16 points and four rebounds. 

3. Michigan defense reignites in 10-0 second-half run

The Wolverines’ high-pressure defense, which unsettled NU in the opening stages of the first frame, returned midway through the second half. 

Michigan’s disruption of the Cats’ pick-and-roll attack helped sparked a 10-0 run to reclaim the lead, one they would never relinquish. The run was a “kill shot” in every sense of the term, as Collins’ bunch, despite a late push, were unable to overcome the deficit.

NU was frequently forced into late shot clock possessions amid the run, unable to stymie the momentum. On the other end, the Wolverines looked to Dickinson, who rattled off a couple buckets inside and assisted a Joey Baker triple.

With the Crisler Center erupting in a chorus of cheers, Michigan, aided by some late free throws, was able to stave off the Cats for the rest of the game. 

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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