Northwestern knew that it would need an extremely strong effort to hang with No. 1 Michigan. Not only that, the Wildcats would need the good fortune to make a few shots and hope the Wolverines miss some.
The Wildcats probably did all they could schematically to score an upset over the No. 1 team in the country (something that should bear repeating throughout the post). When that Michigan train gets rolling though, it is hard to stop. Michigan got rolling early.
Michigan really got rolling early.
The Wolverines hit 10 of their first 11 shots and held a double digit lead for virtually the entire game. The Wildcats tried to play keep up and got taken out of their game a bit and that cost them. Northwestern was climbing the hill the rest of the way and was able to get within eight points on a few occasions. Eventually Michigan’s execution and talent won out. The Wildcats could not take advantage of the opportunities they had — whether it be Dave Sobolewski missing all three 3-pointers after a foul on a 3-pointer or the team missing several shots at the rim.
The Wolverines ended up easily winning 68-46 at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Wednesday.
Above are statistics known as the Four Factors and are regarded as indicative contributors to wins and losses. Please see the end of this post for an explanation.
The Wildcats simply had no answer for Trey Burke, who scored 18 points and dished out eight assists. He got out in the open floor and was looking to distribute. What was most impressive about Michigan though was the team’s offensive efficiency and execution. That is what you would always expect from a John Beilein-coached team.
The Wolverines shot 51.9 percent from the floor, hit 6 of 15 3-pointers and had 14 assists on 25 field goal makes. More importantly, the Wolverines did not turn the ball over in the first half and had only two for the game. Northwestern is not a team that forces a lot of turnovers anyway, but having those few mistakes made things all the more difficult.
Certainly because it took Northwestern a little while to get its footing in this game.
The Wildcats committed six turnovers including three shot clock violations in the first half. Michigan’s defense was extremely disciplined in the first 20 minutes and did not let Northwestern get much going toward the hoop. The Wildcats’ first half offense seemed to consist mostly of 3-pointers and forced shots. Not what NU had in mind.
The Wildcats played much better in the second half, cutting the halftime deficit to single digits and giving themselves a chance at this game. Alex Olah scored the first six points of the second half for NU in what turned out to be a decent 10-point effort for Olah (ignore the 4-for-10 shooting from the floor and the three rebounds total). The Wildcats brought a lot more energy on the offensive end to the second half and caught the Wolverines napping.
Jared Swopshire and Dave Sobolewski did a better job breaking down the defense.
But with three free throws to cut the lead to six, Sobolewski stepped to the foul line and missed all three shots. The mental block for him seemed to get bigger and that moment seemed to deflate NU’s comeback effort and upset bid. Northwestern was getting to the offensive glass but missed plenty of tip ins and put backs. Probably too many.
The opportunities were there. And the opportunities were certainly missed.
Against a team like Michigan, the door to make it a game does not stay open too long. Michigan got back to picking the pace up in this game. The threes started falling and the lead expanded.
Effort and playing hard was not going to be enough. Northwestern needed the break to go its way.
Were there positives? Sure. Were there negatives? Absolutely. It it time to think about Purdue this weekend? Yes.
Offensive Rating measures points scored per 100 possessions.
Effective field goal percentage measures field goal percentage taking into account the added value of a 3-point shot.
Offensive rebound percentage measures the percentage of offensive rebounds over total rebounds.
Turnover percentage estimates what percentage of a team’s possessions end in a turnover.
Free throw rate measures the rate of free throw attempts over field goal attempts.