EVANSTON, Ill. — What a game.
In a back-and-forth, thrilling double-overtime affair at Welsh-Ryan Arena that spanned two-and-a-half hours, the Northwestern Wildcats (14-9, 6-6 B1G) downed No. 4 Michigan (20-4, 11-3 B1G) 71-69. The win, which potentially reignites their NCAA Tournament hopes, was the ‘Cats first against a top-five opponent in six years.
Jillian Brown had herself a career game, collecting 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Both Courtney Shaw and Laya Hartman also had double-digit performances, scoring 16 and 10 points respectively. Though not contributing much to the scoreboard in regulation, Veronica Burton was invaluable in other areas, adding 13 assists and eight rebounds in conjunction with an eventual 13-point performance. For Michigan, Naz Hillmon and Emily Kiser carried the brunt of scoring with 29 points combined, but their efforts were not enough to beat the Blizzard.
Editor’s note: Ok, so a lot happened in this one, but we wanted to let you know up-front that, due to substantial issues with the platform we typically use for live game statistics, we won’t have a comprehensive breakdown of the first half. What you need to know is this: the teams traded blows in the first quarter, with Kaylah Rainey sinking a layup at the end of the period to give NU a 22-20 advantage. Things remained relatively even in the second quarter, with the Wolverines edging NU out by two to knot things at 32 at the midway point. Brown had a stellar half with 12 points, and two rebounds and assists. Burton, alternatively, went 0-for-5 with zero points in the first 20 minutes but racked up a whopping eight assists. As for Michigan’s star, Hillmon was limited by two early fouls, and ended the first half with just four points and two rebounds.
Alright, that’s the first half. Now for the good stuff:
The ‘Cats came out of the gates fast in the second half courtesy of a pair of buckets from Hartman, one of which came from beyond the arc. Both teams then traded layups, and NU’s — a put in by Courtney Shaw — gave Burton a season high 10 assists just over two minutes into the quarter. The next four-or-so minutes were physical, with both teams converting shots inside and competing on the glass, giving the ‘Cats a 43-40 lead at the media timeout.
Michigan took advantage of height disparities between the teams after the break, as Kiser and Hillmon used their size to go on a 8-0 run to conclude the quarter. On the offensive end of the floor for Joe McKeown’s team water found its level a bit, as the ‘Cats didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:26 of the third despite having multiple open looks from the floor.
The fourth quarter began with Veronica Burton putting the ‘Cats on her back, as she drove, dished and found Courtney Shaw for a Layup before knocking down a triple for her first points of the game via a wing three pointer to make it 48-48. Her fatigue showed the following possession, as she was slow off a screen that allowed the Wolverines an open triple, but she made up for it on the offensive end by getting fouled and converting both free throws.
Both teams were laying it all on the line midway throw the fourth, as bodies were flying after rebounds and the pressure ramped up defensively. This was especially evident when Jillian Brown grabbed an offensive rebound out of nowhere and proceeded convert a layup, drawing a foul and putting NU up 54-53 in the process.
The momentum was already in Wildcats’ favor, and, following a shot clock violation for the Wolverines and made layup by Shaw, Northwestern was visibly feeling it. Up 56-53, they forced Michigan to call a timeout with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
As “defense” chants grew loud at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the ‘Cats were able to secure the rebound after a multiple-miss possession for Michigan, giving them the ball with only 37 seconds remaining. The Wolverines nearly stole the ball off an inbound, but the ball ended up in the hands of Brown, who the Wolverines elected to foul. Brown made them pay by hitting only net on both attempts to make it 58-53 and seemingly put it away for the ‘Cats.
The finish, however, would not be that simple, as the Wolverines hit a contested wing three in a mere four seconds to make it 58-56. Chaos ensued on the following possession, as Burton stepped out-of-bounds after securing the loose ball to give the Wolverines possession back with a chance to tie or take the lead.
A questionable call on a play with minimal contact sent Michigan’s Danielle Rauch to the line, with 7.2 seconds remaining, where she calmly tied the game. Following a timeout, Burton had a great look at a floater that bounced off the back rim and sent the game into overtime.
The first extra period began with both teams trading triples, with Burton finding Lauryn Satterwhite for a wing three before Maddie Nolan knocked one down from deep. After missing on their next shot, the ‘Cats were unable to secure the offensive boards and were forced to foul Hillmon. She knocked down both free throws, to make it 63-61 in favor of the Wolverines.
After nearly two minutes of scoreless action, Burton knotted the game at 63 by nailing both free throws after being was fouled on a layup attempt. With under a minute remaining, Nolan tried a shot from the corner with the shot clock running down, but Brown swatted the three-point attempt to force a shot clock violation.
Northwestern then had the ball with the shot clock turned off and a chance to win it. The Wolverines forced a jump ball after a missed shot from NU, which gave them the possession back with 3.4 seconds remaining in OT. UM was unable to get the ball inbounds cleanly, resulting in five more minutes of extra basketball for these two visibly exhausted teams.
The fatigue showed from both units in the opening moments of second overtime, as both teams were scoreless until Burton split a pair of free throw attempts and made her second field goal of the game to give the ‘Cats a three-point lead. Both teams had a pair of foul shots in which Michigan converted both the ‘Cats only converted the front end.
Still, the ‘Cats led 67-66 with under two to play, and they quickly extended their lead to three with via a Shaw layup. As they’d done all game, the Wolverines showed resiliency to tie the game at 69, courtesy of a step-back, contested wing three by Rauch with only 53 seconds remaining.
The following possessions for both teams resulted in turnovers, with Burton capitalizing on an errant pass by the Wolverines. With only 3.9 seconds remaining, Michigan’s Amy Dilk committed a foolish foul a full 40 feet from the basket to send Burton to the line, where the senior calmly knocked down both. On the game’s final possession, Varejo, who was in for the Wolverines after Dilk fouled out moments earlier, missed a deep hook shot to cement the ‘Cats 71-69 victory.
Northwestern will travel to Bloomington to face the No. 7 Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. CST.