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'Unselfish' No. 16 Michigan sinks No. 19 Northwestern with 3s in rout, moves to 9-0

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — New year, same results.

No. 16 Michigan rang in 2021 in impressive fashion on Sunday night, using a resounding all-around effort and a season-high 12 made 3-pointers to throttle No. 19 Northwestern, 85-66, at Crisler Center.

It was the first time in the all-time series — 175 total meetings — both teams were ranked in the top 25 when they squared off. But this time, it wasn’t much of a contest as Michigan’s pick-your-poison scoring attack continued to hum along.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 85, Northwestern 66

“All of us are unselfish,” said senior guard Chaundee Brown, who was one of five Wolverines to finish in double figures with 14 points. “Anybody can have a big night.

“We have so many pieces, it's hard to stop everyone. The offense that we run, the NBA-style offense, it's really hard to guard.”

Michigan guard Franz Wagner (21) reacts in the second half.

Northwestern found that out the hard way. After relying on the long ball and draining nine 3-pointers in the first half to build a 14-point lead, the Wolverines (9-0, 4-0 Big Ten) turned to freshman center Hunter Dickinson to blow the game open. And he wasted little time going to work, scoring 11 of Michigan’s 13 points — a stretch that featured a dunk, two mid-range jumpers and a three-point play — less than four minutes into the second half.

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Most of Dickinson’s damage came during the early portion of a 22-7 spurt that senior forward Isaiah Livers capped with a fast-break layup, pull-up 3-pointer and fall-away jumper, giving the Wolverines a comfortable 67-41 cushion with 12:12 to play.

Michigan’s 11th and 12th made 3-pointers, courtesy of junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. and senior guard Eli Brooks, set the new season mark and provided the Wolverines with their largest lead, 77-48, with 7:37 remaining. It also put the game well out of reach, as the Wildcats trailed by at least 20 points until the closing seconds and the Wolverines coasted to their first win over a ranked opponent this season.

Dickinson finished with 19 points — 15 coming in the second half — to lead another balanced effort for Michigan, which shot 50% from the field (32-for-64) and 44.4% from 3-point range (12-for-27) and finished with 22 assists. Sophomore wing Franz Wagner had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, Brooks scored 14 and senior forward Isaiah Livers added 10 points.

"I think we just have so many different weapons,” Brooks said. “If they guard the first action well, we have three elite talents on the other side of the ball, even when we bring in subs. I don't feel like there's a drop-off when someone gets subbed out. Everyone is real confident in what they're asked to do and we're a selfless team.”

Robbie Beran scored 14, Miller Kopp 13 and Pete Nance 10 for Northwestern (6-3, 3-2), which was handed its ninth straight loss in Ann Arbor and hasn’t won at Crisler Center since Jan. 10, 2010.

The Wildcats entered the game as one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the nation, knocking down 42.4% of their attempts from beyond the arc and averaging 10 made deep balls per game. But on Sunday, they shot a season-low 27.8% from deep (5-for-18) as the Wolverines dominated the long-range battle.

Michigan guard Mike Smith (12) drives to basket over Northwestern guard Chase Audige (1) in the first half.

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“Michigan just had their way with us tonight,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “We haven’t seen that size, physicality and length in any of our games that we’ve played yet. I thought it really knocked us back. That front line of Wagner, Livers and Dickinson, they’re big, they’re long on both ends. The size really bothered us. They physically imposed their will in a lot of ways.

“They came out and just beat us. I think this was an example of Michigan being the better team. They executed and they defended when they needed to.”

Northwestern posed an intriguing matchup for Michigan, particularly in the frontcourt with Nance, a floor-stretching forward, starting at the five. The Wolverines opted to put Wagner instead of Dickinson on Nance, who scored the first eight points for the Wildcats.

On the other end, Northwestern double-teamed Dickinson and it led to some initial clunky play that took a few minutes to navigate. But once Michigan settled in on both ends, it didn’t take long for it to get rolling.

The Wolverines found open shots on the perimeter with the Wildcats chasing around Dickinson as well as with dribble penetration and extra passes, ripping off an 18-4 run. Michigan took advantage of the clean looks and buried four 3-pointers during the flurry to take a 20-12 lead with 9:43 left in the first half.

"It's always good getting open looks, having the ability to move the ball and having open driving lanes,” Wagner said. “I think we did a good job of when we attack and when we pass it out to open shooters. Hunter is such a good passer that it kind of plays into our hands to double him.”

Brown splashed a 3-pointer — Michigan’s sixth in the first half — and added a steal and fast-break dunk off a turnover from guard Boo Buie to widen the lead to 34-24 at the 4:04 mark. Brown was called for a technical for hanging on the rim and Buie was injured on the play, needing to be helped off the court after staying down for a few minutes.

The Wolverines continued to make it rain from deep and closed the half on a 9-0 run with three combined 3-pointers from Brooks and Wagner, putting the Wildcats in a 43-29 halftime hole that would only continue to grow.

But even after another convincing win over another Big Ten foe, Brown said Michigan still has to earn more respect to put itself on the radar.

“I feel like we've still got to win some more games,” Brown said. “We're going to continue to stay dialed in and locked in and continue to play our game. We know that we still have more work to do. We're not satisfied with 9-0.”

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins