They don’t get much bigger than this.
On the verge of its first NCAA Tournament berth in program history, Northwestern ran toe-to-toe with No. 11 Michigan for the full 40 minutes of regulation, only to fall flat in overtime.
They don’t get much tougher than this, either.
At one point, the Wildcats seemed all but destined to shake up the world of college basketball with an upset over the Big Ten juggernaut. But after leading by seven at halftime, the ‘Cats simply couldn’t finish down the stretch, and the Wolverines came roaring back with the perimeter prowess of freshman guard Trey Burke and senior Stu Douglass.
14 – Shots Michigan made from behind the arc, eight of which came from the hot-hands of Burke and Douglass. The folks in maize attempted a whopping 38 threes on Tuesday night, fully exploiting a Northwestern defense that appeared sluggish off the edge. With meticulous, fast-paced ball movement, “the Victors” had endless open looks and subsequently took full control of the game’s tempo by the second half.
18.8 – Success rate for NU when shooting from downtown. The Wildcats entered Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday leading the Big Ten in total threes made, yet unlike their opponents, they were woefully ineffective on the long-ball. Michigan’s stout backcourt plagued Shurna, Crawford and the rest of the ‘Cats all night, leading to a dismal shooting percentage from long range.
17 – Wolverines points generated off turnovers. Northwestern had been flaunting consistent ball control all year, but on Tuesday night, Carmody’s ‘Cats surrendered possession 14 times.
Play of the game:
With Welsh-Ryan rocking off the hinges at the beginning of overtime, Michigan swiftly regained momentum with three consecutive threes, opening up a nine-point lead and never looking back. In just one minute and 38 seconds, Burke, Douglass and senior Zack Novak provided the push necessary for the Wolverines to claim their second overtime victory against the Wildcats in 2012.
Where does Northwestern stand?
“I think we’ll be fine, I think we still have a lot to play for. This was a tough loss...but we fought hard, and we lost to a good team,” remarked guard Reggie Hearn after the game. The junior was right: Northwestern is still alive and well for the remainder of 2011-12, and can walk away with some undeniable positives despite Tuesday’s loss.
“You watch them play, it’s absolutely a thing of beauty,” said Michigan coach John Beilein about the Wildcats. Tuesday’s thriller was a tough one for Northwestern to stomach, but the team’s competitive, hard-nosed style of play will surely garner respect around the nation. With a top-50 RPI and Sagarin rating, the ‘Cats are making noise in the Big Dance discussion, and with prime-time matchups remaining against Penn State, OSU and Iowa, NU has a chance to earn some crucial conference wins before the season ends.
Could the Wildcats see these Wolverines a third time this year? With the Big Ten Tournament approaching, NU will be pressing for round three and a shot at redemption. “Next time we have [Bill Carmody], he’ll have a bag of tricks that we’ll have to figure out,” said a smiling Beilein.
Sunday’s road contest against the Nittany Lions will be pivotal in determining Northwestern’s conference standing. The lowly Lions seem to be an easy victory for the ‘Cats, but as Tuesday clearly illustrated, nothing is certain in this year’s hectic Big Ten.