EVANSTON, Ill. C The University of Michigan men's basketball team improved to 2-0 in Big Ten play after seizing control in the second half of a tight defensive battle at Northwestern to take a 58-46 win Saturday (Jan. 6) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
After playing to a 28-28 tie at the halftime break in a back-and-forth battle, Michigan (14-3, 2-0 Big Ten) used its strong defensive play and rotating defenses to hold Northwestern (10-5, 0-2 Big Ten) to just 18 total points on 19.2 percent shooting in the second half to seize control of the game and pull away for a 12-point win.
The Wolverines had contributions from several players in the Maize and Blue's second road win of the season. However, it was the senior class that once again helped the Wolverines to the victory. Senior Dion Harris (Detroit, Mich./Redford HS) scored just six points, but he was a force running the Wolverine offense as he had eight assists and just one turnover in 37 minutes of action. Senior Brent Petway (McDonough, Ga./Griffin HS) was a force on the glass as he had a team-best eight rebounds while adding seven points, a block and a steal in 29 minutes of action.
Fifth-year senior Lester Abram (Pontiac, Mich./Northern HS) finished with nine points, four rebounds and a block and a steal in 32 minutes of action, while senior Courtney Sims (Boston, Mass./Noble & Greenough School) closed the game with nine points, six rebounds and a block shot.
Freshman Reed Baker (Naples, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) led U-M in scoring as he posted his second career double-digit scoring performance with 11 points, which included three long range buckets. He added two rebounds in 26 minutes of action. Junior Ron Coleman (Romulus, Mich./Romulus HS) had six points, tied a season-best with seven rebounds and had two assists in 20 minutes.
In the first half, Michigan jumped out to an early 6-2 lead as both teams tried to establish their style of play. Both the Wolverines and Wildcats continued to capitalize on the other team's mistakes in the first half as the two teams exchanged buckets from the outside and on the inside. However, the Wolverines were still able to hold on to an 11-6 lead midway through the first half.
As Northwestern slowed the pace of the game down using as much of the shot clock as possible, the Wildcats were able to climb back into the game as they took their first lead of the game 17-15 with under six minutes remaining in the first half. As the pace picked up in the first half offensively for both squads, Northwestern was able to counter any Wolverine attack as the Wildcats held a two-point lead throughout the next four minutes.
An inside cutting layup by Abram with 1:21 remaining tied the score at 26 which was followed by a freshman Ekpe Udoh (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe HS) inside basket as the Wolverines regained the lead at 28-26 with just 24 second remaining. As time ran out in the first half, the Wildcat's Tim Doyle's desperation jumper from just inside the arc fell as time expired to knot the score again as both teams went to the lockerrom deadlocked at 28-28.
The start of the second was a mirror image of the last few minutes of the first half as Northwestern opened the scoring and held a brief one-point lead for the first two minutes of play. Back-and-forth play went. Then the Wolverine halftime adjustments started to pay off early as the Maize and Blue went to a zone defense which stymied the Wildcat offense. Michigan was able to regain the lead on a layup from Coleman, a lead they would never surrender for the rest of the half.
Defense was the name of the game as Michigan and Northwestern continued to battle throughout the next 12 minutes as the Wolverines were only able to maintain a four-point lead, 47-43, as the Wildcats held strong. The Wolverines were able to strike a blow with six minutes remaining as an Abram long range triple pushed the lead to seven, 50-43.
With the three possession lead, the Wolverines turned up the defense as the Wildcats were held to just five point throughout the next six minutes. Michigan pulled away with free throws as Harris and Petway each sank a pair late down the stretch to seal the 12-point win.
The Wolverines have an early season conference bye game as the Maize and Blue will not play again until it heads for West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday (Jan. 13) for a road game at Purdue. The game at Mackey Arena is scheduled for an 8 p.m. start and will be part of the ESPN-Plus package.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423