EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern’s first conference victory will have to wait until 2019.
The Wildcats (6-3, 0-2) dropped their second game in a row to the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines (9-0, 2-0) despite a valiant come-from-behind effort, led by senior Vic Law, that saw NU come agonizingly close to pulling off what would have been a massive upset.
A Jordan Poole dunk with just over a minute and a half gave the Wolverines a 62-60 lead, and for the second game in a row, the Northwestern offense simply couldn’t make the plays down the stretch when they needed to most. After missed opportunities on both ends, Ryan Taylor’s off-balance three-pointer bounced off the rim as time expired to seal the Wildcats’ fate.
The Wolverines started hot and jumped out to an early 14-7 early lead at the under-16 timeout. The Northwestern man-to-man defense looked sloppy early as they struggled to switch and defend the screen. Guard Ryan Taylor struggled in particular, fouling Jordan Poole twice as he was shooting from beyond the arc in the first three minutes of the game.
Despite the slow start, the Wildcats battled back and cut the Michigan lead to 22-19 with just over eight minutes to play, thanks mainly to strong post play from Dererk Pardon.
Pardon dominated down low, going 7-of-8 from the field for 16 points in the first half, and Vic Law hit a huge buzzer beating three-pointer to cut the Michigan lead to just six heading into the locker room.
Poole led the Wolverine offensive attack in the first half with 11 points and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis added ten more for Michigan, including two three-pointers.
Despite Michigan scoring the first nine points of the second half, the Wildcats remained resilient once again.
Consecutive three-point plays from A.J. Turner and Vic Law brought the Wildcats to within two of Michigan with a little over 13 minutes to play and the Welsh-Ryan crowd rocked at a noise level it hadn’t seen all season.
Northwestern hung with the Wolverines throughout the latter part of the half. Finally, a Vic Law three-pointer with 6:30 left to play put the Wildcats in front for the first time all game.
In the second half, Michigan was led by the 6-foot-7 Brazdeikis whose size and shooting ability proved too much for the Northwestern defense to handle at times.
For the second game in a row, Pardon and Law were the Wildcats’ most efficient players on both ends of the court. Pardon finished the game with 20 points and five rebounds while Law had 19 points and added seven boards, along with some great individual defense.
Vic Law led the team in scoring with 11 points in the second half.
Pardon limped off the court with an injury midway through the second half, but returned down the stretch.
Poor backcourt play from Ryan Taylor and A.J. Turner hurt the Wildcats on Tuesday night. Taylor finished just 3-of-10 shooting on the night and struggled to keep up in man-to-man defense no matter who Chris Collins had him match up with, though he did have some good moments toward the end of the game. Meanwhile, Turner turned the ball over three times for NU and shot just 2-of-7 from the floor.
Northwestern’s freshman were nowhere to be found in the second half, with Miller Kopp and Pete Nance earning a combined one minute of action.
The Wildcats play DePaul at home on Saturday in a return to non-conference play.