Survive and advance. Like March Madness, that's one way to describe life in the Big Ten. The Wolverines got a break in playing poorly in long stretches before pulling out a 66-64 overtime win over Northwestern Wednesday night.
Northwestern jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, thanks in part to Michigan's awful shooting. The Wolverines missed their first eight shots, including five in close and two lay-ups, including a perfectly executed cut by senior Stu Douglass. Big man Jordan Morgan rushed a few, including a put-back that missed badly, and he was rejected on a nice dish from Matt Vogrich when the Wildcats didn't buy the fake.
U-M had no problems getting looks against the Wildcats' man defense … the Wolverines just couldn't finish. Only some strong shooting by sophomore wing Tim Hardaway Jr. (4 for 5 threes in the first half) helped match Northwestern offensively. Vogrich hit a three but had two others that were halfway down rim out … Vogrich did provide a couple of hustle plays on both ends that gave the Wolverines extra possessions.
Michigan missed senior guard Zack Novak, who picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and had to go to the bench. Sophomore Evan Smotrycz lost Northwestern's Jon Shurna twice on backdoor cuts, and U-M was beaten backdoor at least six times in the half, giving up points on at least four.
The Wolverines struggled to find cohesion on the offensive end the entire half, but got enough individually from Hardaway and Burke, who finished two drives and got fouled on another, to at least keep pace. They had a hard time matching up with talented Drew Crawford, though, who scored 11 first half points, including a three from the corner late in the half that put the Wildcats up 34-27 at the break. The Wildcats shot 61 percent to Michigan's 28 and made four of six triples.
A Shurna triple from the top gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead. Another bucket in the post against Novak put them back up 10 after a Morgan make, and the Wolverines faced an uphill battle.
But they made a run, starting by taking the defense up a notch and taking the ball to the hole. Burke set up Hardaway for a lay-up with a nice dish, and Douglass found Morgan for a finish. Novak finished a 10-0 run with a thunderous dunk from the wing in transition to finally put the Wolverines up, 46-44. The Wildcats, reeling, had to use three timeouts before the 12:00 TV timeout, and U-M seemed primed to pull away.
Shurna and Crawford, though, provided answers. Shurna went to the post to score against and Crawford inside to spark a 6-0 run that put the Wildcats back up by four. U-M resorted to some quick three-point attempts from Hardaway and Douglass and continued to shoot poorly from long range. Hardaway kept two balls alive on the offensive glass to give the Wolverines second chances, but U-M remained cold until Hardaway forced what appeared to be a bad shot from the top at 2:40, but found the bottom of the net to tie it at 54.
Neither team could score down the stretch. Michigan missed a golden chance with :40 to go when Hardaway fumbled a perfectly executed backdoor play and Novak airballed an open three from the corner on the desperation pass from Hardaway as he was falling out of bounds. Bad calls both ways sent it to overtime.
Shurna opened the scoring again with a stepback jumper before Douglass tied it on an inbounds play, the second time U-M scored on such a play. Smotrycz made two free throws after being fouled on a defensive rebound and Burke cleaned up the garbage for a short jumper to put Michigan up two, but Morgan's extracurriculars on the play drew a technical foul. Crawford made one of two free throws before Burke drove and countered with two free throws on the other end to put U-M up 62-59 with 1:05 remaining.
With Michigan up one and :38 remaining, Northwestern went 1-3-1. Hardaway missed a triple, but the Wildcats lost the rebound out of bounds. Burke was fouled with 32.6 seconds remaining and made both free throws to put U-M up three, 64-61. Alex Marcotulio missed the first of three free throws after being fouled by Hardaway on a triple attempt from the corner with .3 seconds remaining to essentially seal the win.
The Wolverines won despite shooting 23.3 percent from long range, Douglass (0-for-6) and Burke (1-for-6) struggling mightily. Burke, though, made six key free throws down the stretch, finishing with 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Hardaway added 19, as well.