It took Michigan a while to wake up in front of a sparse Crisler Center crowd on a snowy Sunday afternoon, but eventually the Wolverines dispatched Northwestern comfortably in a 74-51 point win. Michigan took control of the game after allowing the Wildcats to hang around about 25 minutes, and earned its second Big Ten victory of the season.
Nik Stauskas led the way with 18 points while Glenn Robinson III (12 points) and Derrick Walton Jr. (11 points) also reached double figures. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford continued to replace Mitch McGary with a group effort, combining for 15 points and 16 rebounds.
While Michigan’s offense will grab the headlines after scoring 74 points in 61 possessions, second half defensive adjustments were what enabled the Wolverines to pull away down the stretch. Leading by just six points with 14 minutes to play, Michigan broke the game open with a 12-2 run. The run was powered by defense as Michigan earned five stops in a row and seven stops out of eight possessions. The Wolverines would never look back, stretching their lead to as many as 26 points in the easy victory.
There aren’t many surprises in Michigan’s offensive statistics. The Wolverines shot 63% on twos, 33% on threes for a 58% effective field goal percentage and didn’t turn the ball over often. For the second league game in a row, Michigan made hay at the free throw line. The Wolverines made 18-of-22 free throws to just 48 field goal attempts and outscored Northwestern 18-7 at the stripe. Michigan only rebounded 29% of its misses and managed just two second chance points. The Wolverines ran a lot of offense through Nik Stauskas but there wasn’t much secret to their success, they just had significantly more talent.
Northwestern’s lack of scoring ability has become painfully obviously without the Princeton offense. Drew Crawford carried the Wildcats in the first half but Michigan did a great job adjusting to him in the second. After scoring 13 points in the first, Crawford didn’t score in the second half until he hit a free throw with 5:19 to play. Northwestern only had four offensive rebounds in the game: two were on the same possession and one was immediately whistled a travel. Dominating Northwestern on the glass isn’t anything to puff your chest out about but Michigan did its job. The Wolverines also forced the Wildcats into 12 turnovers and turned them into 16 points.
It wasn’t a glamorous victory, especially throughout the first half, but Michigan took care of business with a routine home victory. Michigan outscored the Wildcats by .38 points per trip and sits at 2-0 in league play. The Wolverines have another manageable week coming up with a winnable road game in Lincoln, Nebraska on the docket.
- Nik Stauskas: Michigan’s base offense in this game was the high pick-and-roll or dribble hand off with Stauskas. Early on, he struggled to figure out Northwestern’s defense with an early turnover and ill-advised shot attempt but eventually he settled down. He’s the one player on the Michigan roster that can make the roll pass to the big man and he showed good vision again (4 assists), but where he thrives is driving the ball. Stauskas was 3-of-5 on two point attempts and got to the line eight times. As the game wore on he started to understand that the chances were there and he just had to keep attacking.
- Jordan Morgan: Horford outplayed Morgan in Minneapolis but Morgan played the better game on Sunday. He was a +26 in 18 minutes while Horford was just a +5 in 20 minutes. Morgan finished with 8 points on 3-of-3 shooting and eight rebounds. He hit a half hook for the second game in a row, finished all of his opportunities at the bucket and moved well defensively and on the glass. He also did the little things like diving on the floor for loose balls to extend possessions and was Michigan’s leading scorer with 8 points in the first half.
- Derrick Walton: Walton was aggressive out of the gate and scored an efficient 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting (5-of-6 FT) in 25 minutes. He does a good job of pushing the ball but he almost always takes the ball himself (the one time he tried to throw an oop on the break it was picked off). He only had one assist but he did make at least one nice pass to Horford that resulted in free throws instead of a bucket.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson showed no ill-effects of his ankle injury, scoring 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 31 minutes, but he didn’t play his best game either. He shot a lot of jump shots and never really got into a groove offensively. He knocked down one of his patented mid-range elbow jumpers on the secondary break but was just 1-of-7 on jumpers for the game and 5-of-5 on layups and dunks. Robinson is a preposterous 35-of-39 (90%) on field goal attempts at the rim this season but is just 31-of-95 (33%) on all jumpers.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht hit his only shot of the game (an unguarded three to put Michigan up 19) and Michigan was +23 with him on the floor compared to +9 with Walton on the floor. His passing ability was on full display as he made some terrific assists:
- Caris LeVert: Caris had another quiet game offensively – 7 points on 1-of-5 shooting and two assists – but I thought he played a much better defensive game against Northwestern than he has for quite some time. He had a great pass ahead to Morgan running the floor, he knocked down a triple and got to the line with a coupe nice drives. LeVert’s biggest issue offensively is that he’s not seeing his teammates when he penetrates. He is almost always dribbling for his shot and needs to do a better job of dribbling for someone else’s shot.
- Jon Horford: Horford had a quiet start to the game but got comfortable in the second half and had a nice shift. He showed off his mid-range jumper and also had a nice hustle play to save an offensive rebound going out of bounds. A block, a steal and eight rebounds (2 offensive) made for a solid performance overall.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin forced a couple shots today (shooting on the move) but he had a nice basket on a baseline out of bounds and then knocked down an in-rhythm three late. He also threw a nice alley-oop to Robinson on the break. He only played only 16 minutes with Robinson healthy but he played a solid game.