Crazy, crazy, crazy game. I had to write and rewrite these about 20 different times over the last 20 minutes of Northwestern's 82-78 double-overtime win over Michigan. Here's how Northwestern graded out:
Overall grade: A
This wasn't Northwestern's best game, but it was probably its most fun, which is why the performance earns an "A." Chris Collins and co. honored the three Northwestern seniors (Dave Sobolewski, JerShon Cobb and Jeremiah Kreisberg) with some unbelievable late-game heroics courtesy of Tre Demps.
It was pretty clear Northwestern changed up its defense following the loss to Illinois. The zone was a little more aggressive and stretched out to the three-point line, clearly a reaction to the ability of the Illini to knock down threes over the top of the zone. But with that came some late rotations that led open looks for the Wolverines. It was really the play of three guys that kept Michigan ahead of Northwestern: Spike Albrecht (16 points on 5-10 shooting), Aubrey Dawkins (21 points on 7-11 shooting) and Zak Irvin (28 points on 8-17 shooting). Northwestern's zone couldn't contain Michigan's outside shooting and it almost proved to be too much for the Wildcats to handle.
Northwestern's offense began with Alex Olah and finished with Tre Demps. Without Bryant McIntosh playing at his usual level, Olah and Demps were the absolute focal points on that end of the floor. Olah dominated inside and Northwestern did a great job of getting him the ball in spaces where he could score. As for Demps, his individual talent and knack for converting big shots was on display again. Northwestern had five players score in double figures with JerShon Cobb, Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law contributing alongside Olah and Demps.
Tre Demps' quiet evolution over the second half of this season into a more efficient, multi-dimensional player has been one of the more promising and remarkable things to happen to Northwestern this season. The days of seeing Demps the chucker may be gone, as the junior is now showcasing a more refined version of his game. No, Demps didn't light up the scoreboard. But he only took 13 shots and almost always made the right play. He did well to prove the middle of Michigan's defense and find openings. Few of his shots if any were truly forced.
OH, AND BY THE WAY, HE CASUALLY KNOCKED DOWN A STEP-BACK THREE TO SEND THE GAME INTO OVERTIME.
And in overtime, Demps...
CASUALLY KNOCKED DOWN BACK-TO-BACK THREES WITH TEN SECONDS LEFT TO SEND THE GAME INTO DOUBLE OVERTIME.
This was the best game of Alex Olah's career, hands down. He dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he pulled Northwestern back into the game especially in the second half with 19 of his career high 25 points. He took on Michigan double teams and made the Wolverines pay. He often spun away from the helping defender to get an open look or, often more impressively, he was able to pass out of the pressure. Defensively, Olah continued to thrive in his role as the team's rim protector. He blocked one shot during the game, but altered far more and stayed completely out of foul trouble. And, of course, he hit a clutch three in the second overtime.
Vic Law did Vic Law things against Michigan. He didn't shoot particularly well for most of the game. But he helped Olah clean up the glass with six rebounds. He had a nice dunk and collected a steal. He looks to be more comfortable, though, on the offensive end as the freshman didn't commit a turnover and moved the ball well in 38 minutes. And in the overtimes, the freshman knocked down two big threes to put Northwestern over the top.
In his final regular season home game at Welsh-Ryan Arena, Dave Sobolewski played 27 minutes, the most he has played all season. The point guard didn't score and took just one shot. And it wasn't as if he contributed heavily as a distributor either with only two assists. But what he did do, as he filled in for a less-than-100-percent Bryant McIntosh, was initiate the offense that enabled Olah, for example, to get the ball in spots where he could score. Defensively, Sobolewski was serviceable but did commit some seemingly unnecessary fouls.
I know it's cliche, but it's nice how it works out that seniors often happen to have special moments on senior night. JerShon Cobb was no exception. He was surprisingly outstanding for Northwestern after not playing in six-straight games. He hit two huge threes to cut Michigan's lead to one with just over a minute left in regulation and then pulled down a massive offensive rebound and put it in a layup with about 30 seconds to again cut the Wolverine's lead to one. With the clock winding down in the first overtime, he made a nice pass to Demps along the baseline for the game-tying three. He scored 14 points, hit three threes and grabbed eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
According to the Big Ten Network announcers, Bryant McIntosh missed the last two days of practice with severe migraines and was clearly not completely healthy. Collins played Sobolewski more than McIntosh until there were about five-or-so minutes left in regulation. The freshman didn't score until 18.1 seconds left in the second OT and committed some costly turnovers that almost doomed Northwestern. He did finish the contest with a team-high six assists.
Scottie Lindsey always seems to play with a chip on his shoulder, like he needs to prove himself to someone somewhere. He's never afraid to take an open (or even contested) shot. He finished with 10 points on 10 shots in 17 minutes and had two impressive blocks. But down the stretch, Lindsey didn't play much of a role for Northwestern.
The junior forward's biggest contribution in the game came at the end of the first overtime, when he forced a turnover on a Michigan in-bounds play to give Northwestern the ball with just a few seconds left. Other than that, Sanjay Lumpkin didn't do much in eight minutes.
Nathan Taphorn, Jeremiah Kreisberg and Gavin Skelly
All three players played fewer than five minutes in the game.