On Tuesday, the Michigan Wolverines went on the road for the second time this season and for the first time in conference play to face the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston. Although Michigan was favored, Northwestern was looking to play spoiler.
Early on, Michigan took control. The Wolverines relied on the team’s impressive defense and some great play from Ignas Brazedikis. However, Northwestern used a huge 15-2 run in the second half to close things in. But a few mistakes in the final minutes allowed the Wolverines to escape with a 62-60 road win.
So, what did we learn?
What We Learned:
1. This Michigan team can win close games, too.
Even though Michigan has put together an impressive 9-0 record to start the season, the team entered Tuesday night with one major question. Primarily, what would it do when it had to win a competitive games? The Wolverines had blasted through everyone heading into the team’s matchup against the Wildcats.
Well, fans got their answer on Tuesday night.
And Michigan proved it can win close games, too.
Michigan jumped out to a big lead early on, but let off the gas and Northwestern was able to make things interesting down the stretch. It took a huge dunk from Jordan Poole and a few defensive stands to come out with the win. Fans might have wanted to see the team win more convincingly, but learning how to win games like this does pay dividends.
2. Michigan’s bench could still use some work.
With so many wins coming by large margins so far, there hasn’t been much to criticize about the Wolverines. The team is usually up by so much in the second half that there really isn’t even all that much to discuss. As such, we’ve been left to speculate about the deficits for this year’s Michigan team.
But on Tuesday night, we did figure out one issue going forward.
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest issues during the course of the night was the bench. The team got mixed contributions from players like Isaiah Livers and Austin Davis and will need to see more in the weeks ahead. In fact, how Michigan progresses off the bench in the frontcourt will tell a lot about how far this team can go this season.
3. This Wildcat group could be feisty going forward.
Nobody likes to lose and no Wildcat fans are happy with Tuesday’s loss, or the fact that Northwestern started 0-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 2013-’14 season. Add in that both losses came in the final minutes against quality competition and it’s even more frustrating.
But all hope is not lost. It’s still December and Northwestern showed many what it can accomplish as the season continues.
Vic Law hit big shot after big shot and Dererk Pardon was a beast inside. If the team can find a third offensive threat and can continue its defensive success, there’s a lot to like about this group going forward. Perhaps a freshman like Pete Nance can step up.
Additionally, things will get easier going forward. Northwestern gets four straight home games and will be a favorite in every matchup. The team can build some momentum and should be able to enter the second phase of Big Ten play with some energy.
Road games in the Big Ten are never easy and Wolverine fans learned that on Tuesday night. Michigan got up big and faded down the stretch, but pulled out a narrow victory over a feisty Northwestern squad. It was a tough game on both sides.
Michigan will now prepare for a game against South Carolina at home on Saturday and Northwestern will host DePaul on Saturday as well.