After losing a heartbreaker to Rutgers in Evanston on Wednesday night, Northwestern men’s basketball had a chance to rebound Sunday afternoon. Chris Collins’ squad was facing a Michigan team that also lost a pivotal Big Ten game midweek, and both entered with this game circled as a must-win.
As for Northwestern (12-5, 3-3 B1G), the Wildcats were unable to defeat the reeling Wolverines (10-7, 4-2 B1G), and it led to their second consecutive defeat and first on the road.
The Wildcats were led by senior guard Boo Buie, who had 22 points, three rebounds and five assists in the 85-78 loss in Ann Arbor.
Michigan started the game quick with a Kobe Bufkin layup on a defensive breakdown, but Northwestern responded immediately with Robbie Beran inside. The next possession, Jett Howard picked up where he left off Thursday night in Iowa, hitting his first three pointer of the afternoon.
Northwestern went four straight possessions without a basket, and a Hunter Dickinson two combined with a Bufkin three stretched the Wolverine lead. Another Howard triple was sandwiched between two Matthew Nicholson dunks, Michigan found itself up seven at the first break.
Right out of the break, Nicholson picked up his second foul of the game only four-and-a-half minutes in, causing Tydus Verhoeven to sub in early. Northwestern could not get anything to go its way, as a Bufkin layup and a Dug McDaniel three had Michigan up twelve less than six minutes into the game.
Boo Buie scored his first points of the game to cut the deficit to 10 before forcing a shot clock violation on the Wolverines. Both teams went empty for a minute, and Northwestern was down 18-8 with 11:15 remaining in the first half.
Out of the media timeout, both teams came up blank before a Joey Baker two resumed the scoring. The Wildcats forced their seventh turnover of the game before Beran cut the Michigan lead to single digits. After four consecutive points from Brooks Barnhizer, Northwestern found itself down only four.
Dickinson hit his second bucket when play was resumed, but Chase Audige nailed his first three to make it a one-possession game. A Julian Roper fadeaway made it a 12-2 Northwestern run in the last 2:30 of gameplay and cut the Michigan lead to one, and a minute later, a second Audige triple tied the game at 27.
Beran continued to be the feature of the first half: after a tough drive over Tarris Reed Jr. and another three pointer, the Wildcats secured their first lead of the game.
Northwestern was able to keep the lead as Buie and Barnhizer hit layups and Roper canned a three to put the team up six, before a 4-0 run for Michigan cut the Wildcats’ lead and brought the score to 39-37 entering the break.
Out of halftime, play was back-and-forth between the two teams, and Northwestern’s two-point lead still held after reaching the first media timeout.
However, the Wolverines retook the lead with a 5-0 run and another McDaniel three, spurring a timeout from Collins so his squad could regroup. This worked out well, as Northwestern was able to retake the lead with its small-ball lineup on the floor. But once Beran picked up his third foul of the game, the ‘Cats had to make some substitutions, and the Wolverines went on an immediate 6-0 run without the senior forward on the court.
Northwestern ended the run with three free throws from Ty Berry to get the Wildcats within one. This started Northwestern’s own 5-0 run to retake the lead, but shortly after, the ‘Cats came up dry again as Michigan started to score, and Beran picked up his fourth foul with 8:15 remaining. Collins was forced to take him out, and the Wolverines opened their largest lead of the half at seven following a transition three from Baker.
Michigan continued to pile it on, and with a Dickinson bucket extended the lead to nine. Northwestern wouldn’t go away, as a Nicholson Dunk and a Buie three made it a 68-64 game with just 5:30 remaining. The Wildcats got within three before Michigan expanded it to seven behind a dunk and two free throws from McDaniel.
The rest was all Michigan as Chris Collins’ team could not score nor stop the Wolverines and eventually took a double-digit lead. A Buie-led rally made the score a bit closer as the seconds winded down, but it ultimately was too little, too late. With a final score of 85 to 78, it was a disappointing Sunday for the ‘Cats.
Northwestern looks to snap their two-game losing streak on Wednesday in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes at 8:00 CST.