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Northwestern’s offense falters in ugly road loss to Michigan

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The Gothic jersey magic wore off, apparently.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The gothic jerseys didn't work this time against Michigan.

In a grind-it-out, low-scoring affair in Ann Arbor, Northwestern (13-10, 4-6 Big Ten) came up second best, falling 58-47 to No. 24 Michigan (18-6, 7-4). Scottie Lindsey led the Wildcats with 15 points, but he was the only Wildcat in double figures. After holding an early lead, the NU offense came to a standstill, which allowed John Beilein's team to get back into the game and take the lead.

NU got off to a good start in the game's opening minutes, jumping out to a 14-5 lead over the Wolverines. The Wildcats' offense was balanced in the early going — their first six baskets came from six different players. NU started the game 6-of-8 from the floor, while Michigan began 2-of-9.

The zone was able to keep the Wolverines on the perimeter for most of the first half, forcing a bunch of contested threes. Eight of Michigan's first 10 shots came from three, and only one went in. Michigan finished the half just 3-of-15 from beyond-the-arc.

Michigan's offense picked up midway through the opening frame with baskets from Duncan Robinson and Charles Matthews, but a dunk and three from Scottie Lindsey on consecutive possessions kept Northwestern in front despite a 2-of-7 shooting stretch. Robinson got several open looks from three in the first half, but didn't connect on any of his five attempts.

That Lindsey dunk, which came at the 7:06 mark in the half, was Northwestern's last field goal of the half. Like it has several times this season, the offense came to a screeching halt, and nearly every shot felt contested; the Wildcats turned the ball over eight times before halftime. Michigan didn't do much better, but still managed to string together several baskets to take the lead. NU finished the half shooting just over 33 percent, but trailed just 21-19 entering halftime.

Michigan was able to get the lid off the basket early in the second half, scoring the first five points of the second half to cap what had been a 15-0 run tracing back to the first half. Unlike in the first half, Beilein's team came out hot from downtown, hitting three of its first four triples.

Somehow, someway, Northwestern found a way to stay in the game after a putrid offensive stretch. An Aaron Falzon three cut the Wolverine lead to 3 with 10:12 to go, but Northwestern failed to score for the next five minutes of game time as Michigan pushed the lead to ten. The Wildcats struggled to find open looks, amassing only seven assists for the entire game.

Matthews paced the home team, scoring 14 points and turning steals into transition buckets on several occasions.

The rest of the second half was more of the same. Northwestern had trouble generated open looks from the outside and around the rim, and Michigan started hitting the shots they had missed in the first half. The Wildcats made a late push, but the game was never really in doubt for the Wolverines down the stretch.

Takeaways

1. Northwestern's offense was downright terrible

Like, it was really bad. NU shot 38 percent from the floor, 4-of-16 from three, and turned the ball over 16 times. Only Dererk Pardon shot better than 50 percent on field goals. Northwestern's defense kept it in the game for a while, but the offense just wasn't good enough to pull away early on or to come back in the second half. Northwestern hasn't really been able to put it all together on both ends of the floor all season. Collins talked about the team's togetherness last week after watching the Big Ten Network documentary "First Dance," but his team only had seven assists Monday. If only Northwestern had a score-first, attacking player to come in off the bench...

2. Northwestern's postseason chances are shaky at best

They may have already been dead, but it's nearly impossible to envision a scenario in which Northwestern makes the NCAA Tournament, and the NIT could even be in jeopardy. Home games against Michigan and Michigan State will provide opportunities to pick up key wins, but it would be surprising if NU won either of those. The performance in Ann Arbor wasn't completely bad, but, as Chris Collins mentioned last week, the team had basically no margin for error. Welp.