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Three takeaways from Michigan’s comeback win over Northwestern

For the first time this season, the Michigan men’s basketball team is riding a three-game winning streak. They needed a late-game comeback, but the Wolverines took care of business against Northwestern on Wednesday night, dispatching the Wildcats, 72-70.

With the win, Michigan advances to 4-3 in conference play. The Wolverines sit only one game out of first place in the loss column, but they’ve played fewer games than most Big Ten teams due to a pair of COVID-related postponements earlier this month.

The Maize and Blue Review breaks down three takeaways from Michigan’s Wednesday night victory:

Wolverines struggle with foul trouble

Eleven Michigan players saw the court in the first half, but it wasn’t because of a lopsided score. Instead, the Wolverines consistently struggled to defend without fouling. Michigan committed 10 first-half fouls, putting Northwestern in the bonus for nearly eight minutes.

Three different Wolverines — Hunter Dickinson, Moussa Diabate and Frankie Collins — picked up a pair of fouls in the first half. The foul trouble forced Michigan coach Juwan Howard to look deep down his bench, where he called upon reserves Jaron Faulds and Jace Howard for unusual first-half minutes. Both players seized their opportunity when the Wolverines were shorthanded at Illinois, but now that the roster has returned to full strength, their roles have been reduced.

Diabate, in particular, played just nine minutes before his second foul sent him to the bench for the remainder of the half. The foul trouble kept Michigan’s rotation in flux and prevented the Wolverines from extending their lead at times.

Just over five minutes into the second half, DeVante’ Jones was whistled for his third foul. Just over a minute later, Diabate picked up his fourth personal. Howard subsequently took both players out of the game in favor of Collins and Terrance Williams II.

By the seven-minute mark, the Wildcats were already in the double-bonus. Five minutes later, Dickinson and Diabate both fouled out. The officials called 46 total fouls during the game, making it nearly impossible for either team to fall into a rhythm.

Caleb Houstan continues hot shooting streak after rough month

Before Michigan’s game against Maryland, it didn’t look like there was an end in sight for Caleb Houstan’s poor shooting. Hailed as a sharpshooter during his recruitment, the five-star freshman looked like anything but. He missed 19 of his 21 3-point attempts over a five-game stretch from Dec. 11 to Jan. 14.

Since then, however, Houstan has found his stroke. He canned eight of his 11 attempts from deep against the Terps and Indiana last week en route to Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. Then on Wednesday, he scored a team-high 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a 3-for-5 clip from beyond the arc.

Houstan is averaging 17.7 points over the Wolverines’ last three games, and his emergence has added a valuable dimension to Michigan’s offense.

Michigan lets another big second-half lead evaporate

In losses to Seton Hall, Minnesota and Central Florida, there was one common denominator for Michigan: blown second-half leads. The Wolverines seemingly led comfortably down the stretch in each of those games only to unravel in the final 10 minutes.

Against the Wildcats, the Wolverines found themselves up 11 after an Eli Brooks 3-pointer with 17:10 to play. Michigan had Northwestern on the ropes but found itself unable to land a knockout blow. The Wildcats clawed back into the game, and thanks to a 25-7 run that spanned more than 12 minutes, took a seven-point lead with five minutes left.

But from there, the Wolverines found their footing. Despite Dickinson and Diabate fouling out, Michigan rallied to secure the victory on its home floor — something it couldn’t do any other time it blew a big lead.

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