ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team fell just short against Northwestern University, 58-54, Wednesday night (Jan. 16) in Crisler Arena. With the loss, the Wolverines (6-8, 2-3 Big Ten) dropped their third consecutive Big Ten matchup. Northwestern, which did not trail in the game, notched its first conference win of the season (1-3) and improved to 9-6 overall.
The Maize and Blue was led by Avery Queen's (Moreno Valley, Calif./Redemption Christian Academy [N.Y.]) season-high 11 points, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc. LaVell Blanchard (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer HS) chipped in 11 points as well after being held scoreless in the first half. Northwestern's Tavaras Hardy had game highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Capitalizing on its patient offense, Northwestern hit the first three baskets of the game to establish an early 7-0 lead. The Wildcats played a strong pressure defense, shutting out Michigan until 15:36 when Bernard Robinson Jr. (Washington, D.C./New Hampton Prep. [N.H.]) was able to finish off Chris Young's (Plymouth, Mich./Catholic Central HS) shot as the shot clock expired.
Consecutive three-pointers from Leon Jones (Battle Creek, Mich./Winchendon Prep. [Mass.]) at 12:14 and 11:29 helped the Wolverines break out of an early shooting slump, however, Northwestern kept a 13-9 lead at the midway point of the half on the strength of its ability to rebound missed chances by the Wolverines.
With three-pointers on four straight trips down the floor, including one by Drew Long at 7:30 that put the Wildcats ahead by double digits for the first time, Northwestern took a 29-15 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the half.
Michigan fought back before the end of the half, however, holding Northwestern scoreless over the last 4:23. Baskets by Robinson and Young as the half came to a close brought the Wolverines within 12 at halftime, 31-19.
Blanchard scored Michigan's first points of the second half from the line with nearly five minutes gone in the half to make the score 35-21. The Maize and Blue was unable to improve upon the first half's 30.4 percent shooting effort, starting 0-for-5 from the floor in the second frame. However, the Wolverine defense was able to compensate, keeping Northwestern off the board for almost six minutes.
With five consecutive points, Blanchard cut the Michigan deficit to just seven points at 11:39. However team neither made a run until Jones connected on his third three of the night at 8:41 to bring the Wolverines within five, 40-35.
A long two by Robinson brought Michigan within a basket, 47-44, with 4:41 left to play, but the Wolverines were dealt a tough blow at 3:50 when Young received his fifth foul. Michigan persevered and at 3:21 drew within one point of taking the lead on a long three by Dommanic Ingerson (Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara HS).
Two quick Wildcat baskets reasserted a five-point cushion for Northwestern with 1:32 left in the game. Collier Drayton contributed two free throws after being fouled by Queen moments later. Michigan answered right back, though, as Queen drained a three-pointer to put his team within striking distance, 54-50, with one minute on the clock.
Michigan battled back to within one with Blanchard's put-back at 40 seconds, however the Wildcats would not relinquish the lead they had kept since the game's first basket. By connecting on a free throw with only two seconds on the clock, freshman Vedran Vukusic put the game out of reach, 58-54.
The Wolverines will continue their Big Ten Conference slate in Crisler Arena on Saturday (Jan. 19) at 4:37 p.m. against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers previously bested Michigan 90-82 on Jan. 9 in Minneapolis, Minn.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423