Final Horn: Michigan 72, Northwestern 63

Zach Shaw

With winter storms and a middle-of-the-road team in town, the Crisler Center crowd was a tame and sparse as it had been all season. And despite being the clear favorite on paper, the Michigan basketball team matched its fans efforts early on.

Falling behind, 10-0 in the opening minutes and failing to hit a 3 until the first-half buzzer sounded, it took the Wolverines over 30 minutes of game action to take a lead over Northwestern (5-10 Big Ten, 17-11 overall). Michigan eventually caught up, but shooting struggles and lapses on defense kept the Wildcats in the game until the final minutes.

Behind strong play toward the end of the second half on both ends of the court, the Wolverines (10-6, 20-6) took down Northwestern, 72-63.

MVP: Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman. It was a quiet night for most of the Wolverines. Turnovers, struggles from 3-point range (4 for 15 on the night) and a surprise man-to-man defense from Northwestern nearly resulted in Michigan receiving an upset loss that would just about ruin its NCAA Tournament hopes.

But when everyone else struggled to put points on the board, Abdur-Rahkman was there to keep the Wolverines afloat. The sophomore guard led the team with 19 points, using floaters and strong drives to the rim to pace Michigan whenever it needed a basket.

It was over when… With 1:20 to go in the game and Northwestern down just five points, sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins took a loose ball rebound from Tre Demps, and carried it down the court for an easy lay-in. It gave the Wolverines their largest lead of the night and left the Wildcats in desperation mode.

Unsung hero: Aubrey Dawkins. Michigan’s 3-point shooting woes are discussed as tonight’s key stat, but Dawkins proved to be a game-saving exception. The sophomore forward hit two 3s in just over a minute to pull tie the game for the first time since the opening tip. Dawkins ended the game with just 11 points, including three of Michigan’s four made threes, but also chipped in seven rebounds and led Michigan with a plus-minus of 21.

Key Stat: When a team relies on the 3-point shot as much as any team in the country, it is expected that the team will be proficient at making threes. That was not the case for Michigan Wednesday night, as the Wolverines missed their first nine attempts and shot just 4 for 15 from beyond the arc. And when you take out Dawkins’ 3-for-3 performance, that rate looks even worse.

Before the game, Michigan was sixth in the nation in reliance on the 3-pointer, and was 12th in 3-point shooting percentage (40.1 percent). That effectiveness wasn’t there for the Wolverines, and it nearly caused them to lose to the Wildcats.

nw four
  • KenPom projection: 72-65… Pretty crazy accurate.

  • Interesting point by Beilein after the game: Northwestern hasn’t play man-to-man in weeks, went all man-to-man tonight.

    • dingleberries1972

      Northwestern shouldn’t be able to play man to man against Michigan. It’s sad that Northwestern is athletically able to keep up enough to dare attempt.

  • jemblue

    Whew. We’ve got to avoid these slow starts. The first five minutes of each half nearly ended up costing us the game. Thank you MAAR – you were huge.

  • Champswest

    Dawkins gets screened and the other UM player switches, but Aubrey doesn’t. We end up with two guys guarding the same NW player. I saw that happen at least four times in the second half.
    He was great on the offensive end and really bailed us out.
    Where would we be without Abdul-Rachman?

  • malcolm bolt

    MAAR is the most consistent 2 way player the team has right now. His game is under control, doesn’t get beat too much on defense, and is a good offensive finisher. He is not the greatest passer off the dribble, but it is hard to trust that the big men will catch the ball and finish at the rim with this team. I feel he is underrated a lot because he is not the prototypical 3 point shooter that M has been used to having over the years.

    • gobluemd16

      Aubrey is one of the worst defenders I’ve ever seen at the college level. Has absolutely no idea what he is doing. Luckily his offense saved us tonight

      • gobluemd16

        Whoops meant to reply below

      • GTFOmycourt

        It might sound like an exaggeration but damn it you are right. The crazy thing is he is pretty damn good at putting a three up right in a defenders face. He was key tonight for sure…but that defense with all the cat swipes, crazy close outs and shot block attempts when he is nowhere near the offensive player is reminiscent of an elementary school player playing defense against an older kid. I hope he figures it out because he could be a good player… A really good player.

        • gobluemd16

          You didnt even mention ball screens, which are laughable — gets totally stuck fighting through. Off ball, he legit just watches the ball. His man constantly gets open while he drifts, and he fails to box out for this same reason.

  • Mattski

    16-16 record last year, 20-9 (?) so far this year. Really, Beilein has done it with toothpicks and baling wire, because there has been zero consistency from any quarter. My feeling is that we win one more, even if it’s in the first round of the Big Ten tourney, and we are into the NCAAs. Would just love to see us put together one really solid game and win.

  • bobohle

    A win is a win. If recruits Simpson and Watson can play defense they won’t have to worry about minutes next year for sure. On to Wisky. Go Blue!!!!

  • dingleberries1972

    I don’t question the coaching of this team. What I question is the ability to recruit. This team does what it can with what it has. What they have is all on JB. People say well Caris is out Spike is out. This team got killed by good teams with Caris and spike when recruited was never intended to start. Either JB has to win a recruiting battle every now and then or wondering where you will be after selection Sunday will be a norm. The level of talent recruited in the past three cycles has gone the wrong direction and is not what should be aspired to with an athletic budget like UM.