In what's now customary for Michigan's trips to Welsh-Ryan Arena, Northwestern took the Wolverines down to the wire - and this time, Michigan prevailed after a would-be buzzer beater from Ryan Taylor hit the backboard and bounced off the rim. Jordan Poole rejected a screen and drove for an emphatic dunk for the winning margin, and he drew a charge on the ensuing possession. The Wolverines were leveraged into two bad possessions, but their defense held up and secured the win in what was Michigan's first competitive game of the season.
Michigan pulled out to significant leads multiple times, but Northwestern was always able to respond. The beginning of the game portended another blowout: Poole scored five quick points, Zavier Simpson made a few nice plays on the offensive end, and Michigan led 9-3 early - Northwestern labored through their first few possessions but got on the board with a banked-in three from Dererk Pardon (the second made three of his career).
The Wolverines went up 22-12 on an Ignas Brazdeikis three, but Pardon kept the Wildcats in the game. Northwestern’s wings did well to get all the way to the rim on ball-screens to force help from Michigan’s bigs and get the ball to Pardon; he also went to work on the block with his back to the basket and scored effectively against Jon Teske. Pardon finished with 16 points in the first half and carried the scoring burden for a while before Vic Law got going.
Northwestern cut the lead to 22-19, forcing a Beilein timeout, but Michigan responded with a run of their own: Iggy scored on consecutive possessions out of the timeout, Simpson hit a beautiful sky-hook over Pardon, and Teske found Iggy across the floor for a three to extend the lead back to double digits. The Wildcats got back into the game before halftime though, as Pardon scored a few more buckets and Law hit tough shots to end the half - an elbow jumper over Simpson and a tough step-back three at the buzzer.
Michigan led 36-30 at halftime and started the second half well. Teske scored on a put-back on the first possession, Iggy made an and-one layup and had a put-back of his own, and Michigan’s adjustment to have Iggy double off of Anthony Gaines on Pardon’s post touches flummoxed the Northwestern offense for a while. Michigan was on a 9-2 run when Teske picked up his third foul at the under-16 timeout, necessitating a stint from Austin Davis at the center spot.
By the time Davis checked out, Michigan’s lead had evaporated from a comfortable 45-32 margin to a narrow 47-45 lead. The Wildcats held the Wolverines to just two points over a five-minute span, as Law's defense on Simpson bothered the Wolverine point guard; Taylor made a three, AJ Turner made an appearance with a few buckets, including an and-one layup after rejecting a Simpson alley-oop attempt, and Welsh-Ryan was alive. Pardon briefly exited the game with what appeared to be a knee injury and was much less effective in the second half.
Simpson broke the extended 15-2 run with a layup past Law, and Teske checked back in. The Wildcats started to concede wide-open three-point attempts to Simpson and he obliged - taking and missing several looks as Northwestern eventually grabbed their first lead of the game on a tough Law three with six and a half minutes left in the game. After the Law three, Beilein called a timeout and subbed in Eli Brooks for Simpson - a move that worked out well for Michigan. The Wildcats went up three on a Turner hook, but Poole drove baseline and kicked to Brooks, who made the extra pass for a rebuttal from Iggy. On the next possession, Teske found Brooks for a three of his own.
During the intervening possessions, Northwestern was able to keep pace with some easy looks inside. Law lost his high school teammate Charles Matthews on a screen for another layup to put Northwestern up 58-57; Iggy was fouled by Law while taking it to the rim and made one of his two free throws. The teams traded empty trips, then Teske got a steal and eventually was rewarded with an open dunk from Poole. Northwestern responded with a Taylor jumper to tie it back up; Poole’s dunk with two minutes left gave Michigan a 62-60 lead.
From there, Michigan turned it over twice, but held Northwestern scoreless on their final three possessions (despite allowing an offensive rebound on their second-to-last possession). On the final play of the game, Teske stripped Turner, and Taylor grabbed the loose ball, eventually shooting a panicked three from well beyond the arc. The carom off the backboard almost gave Northwestern the hard-fought upset, but the ball bounced Michigan’s way as the clock expired. Despite some poor late-game execution, they prevailed.
Iggy wound up with 23 points (and made 3-6 threes) and continues to impress; Poole started the game hot and made a few huge plays late; Teske was indispensable and finished +15 on the night. Simpson was less effective as the game went on, while Matthews had a tough night in his return to the Chicagoland area, finishing with just three points. Aside from some nice minutes from Brooks down the stretch, Michigan didn’t get much from its bench, as Isaiah Livers was scoreless in 22 minutes and Davis was unable to keep up on both ends while he was in.
Michigan hosts South Carolina on Saturday and will likely keep their undefeated record alive until Big Ten play resumes in January. Tonight, they were truly tested for the first time, and despite shooting 5-20 from three and blowing a sizable second half lead, they withstood strong performances from Northwestern’s seniors Pardon (20 points) and Law (19 points) to stay perfect on the season.
[Box score after the JUMP]