Northwestern 68 Michigan 62. Michigan 8-7 (2-2 Big Ten)
At this point in the season, we have a good idea who these Michigan Wolverines are. They'll finish middle of the pack in the Big Ten, lose to most opponents better than them, and just about split with teams at or below their level. In that sense, the Northwestern loss yesterday wasn't surprising. It still hurts though. The team dominated the first 16 minutes of the contest, and a valiant comeback effort fell just short.
The way this game played out, and I'm sure a lot of people noticed this, was a lot like the Penn State game on Thursday with Michigan's role reversed. A big difference, however, is that Michigan continued to fight when the tides turned. Whereas Penn State folded up when the Wolverines took the lead, yesterday Michigan was able to stem the Northwestern momentum and even briefly lead the game in the final minutes.
Turnovers told the story, just like against Penn State. Whereas the Wolverines took good care of the ball in the first half, the Northwestern defense stepped up its pressure after the break, and Michigan's young ballhandlers coughed up the rock too many times. When the rhythm was disrupted on one end of the floor, the players got distracted, allowing Northwestern to take over the game.
- Just came through now, and is unrelated to this game in particular, but John Beilein has extended his contract with Michigan through the 2015-2016 season.
- Despite a couple ill-advised turnovers toward the end, I thought Darius Morris looked as comfortable on the court as he has all year, with 7 assists to his name and a couple 3-balls, one when Michigan absolutely needed it.
- It's hard to say Manny had a tough game when he nearly had a double-double, but he made a couple killer mistakes (the turnover at the end comes to mind), and at the very least didn't play his best game out there.
- Zack Gibson made his requisite boneheaded play (letting a pass slip through his hands under the basket), but didn't get enough time to make of for it with his requisite awesome athletic play. With such a short bench (and as the only backup in the post), he needs to get more than a couple minutes.
- The commentators who always say "you need to pound inside to DeShawn Sims" (Jay Bilas and others) frustrate me, because John Beilein has proven at multiple coaching stops that it's possible for his teams to win without using the low post as a main source of offense. However, when Sims was playing so well at the beginning of the game, I wish they'd continued that when Northwestern started going on a run, to settle the team and prevent the game from getting out of control. Congratulations to Sims for being named the Big Ten Player of the Week, as well.
The Wolverines have just a couple days to recharge for a big Weekend. Indiana visits Crisler Arena on Thursday at 9PM for what has become a must-win game. On Sunday, UConn will stop by to close out the non-conference schedule. This is also a big football recruiting weekend, so they'll be taking in the UConn game.