Men's basketball wastes upset opportunity at Michigan

    In a slow-paced, low-scoring matchup in Ann Arbor, Northwestern men’s basketball (13-10, 4-6 B1G) failed to capitalize on an opportunity to defeat a ranked opponent in No. 24 Michigan (18-6, 7-4 B1G), falling 58-47. Calling it a defensive battle is putting it nicely: both teams had long stretches where play was flat-out ugly.

    For most of the first half, Northwestern’s zone defense stifled the Wolverines. With Dererk Pardon (9 points, 7 rebounds) and company locking down the paint, Michigan started off 1-12 from 3-point territory as the Wildcats raced out to a 14-5 lead. With just over 7 minutes to go in the first half, Lindsey laid down a monster dunk to give Northwestern a 19-11 advantage in what would be their largest lead for the remainder the game.

    Shortly thereafter, the NU offense was ground to a halt. Over the final 7 minutes of the half, the Wildcats failed to manage even a single field goal. Meanwhile, Michigan went on a 10-0 run, taking the lead for good on a Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman three pointer.

    Lindsey (15 points, 2 rebounds) led all scorers with 7 points after a bizarre first half that Michigan emerged from up 2. Overall, both teams shot under 36 percent and Northwestern gave away 8 turnovers in the half.

    The second half was no kinder to the Wildcats. They continued to commit turnovers (with 8 more in the half) and miss open shots. Meanwhile, Michigan began to hit their open 3-point shots, rendering the zone ineffective. They had a balanced offensive attack, with 5 players scoring 8+ points, and hit big shots whenever it looked like the ‘Cats were starting to climb back. Northwestern, on the other hand, had its 4 best players in McIntosh (6 pts, 5 assists), Law (6 pts, 7 rebounds), Pardon, and Lindsey all commit 3+ turnovers, leading to plays like this:

    Thus, even with more defensive and offensive rebounds than the Wolverines, NU took fewer shots than Michigan and struggled to hit them when they did.

    The game had the makings of an upset for much of the first half, but down the stretch the ‘Cats did not look like a team capable of beating a ranked opponent. All margin for error is now gone as Northwestern, at 9th in the Big Ten, looks unlikely to make a postseason appearance.

    The Wildcats next face Wisconsin, the team right below them in the standings, in Madison on Thursday.


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