Michigan coach talks about his team's performance in Tuesday's 61-52 road loss at Allstate Arena. James Hawkins
Rosemont, Ill. – The past two times Michigan traveled to Northwestern, it checked into Heartbreak Hotel with a pair of crushing defeats.
The Wolverines had another deflating stay on Tuesday.
Michigan squandered a 10-point first-half lead and went over nine minutes between made field goals as the wheels fell off in the second half of a 61-52 loss to Northwestern at Allstate Arena.
Moritz Wagner had 20 points and nine rebounds and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 11 for No. 20 Michigan (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten), which fell to 2-4 on the road in conference games and had nearly as many turnovers (four) as made baskets (five) over the final 20 minutes.
The Wolverines shot 25 percent (5-for-20) in the second half, including a dismal 10 percent (1-for-10) on 3-pointers, after shooting 50 percent (12-for-24) from the field in the first half. They finished at 22.7 percent (5-for-22) from 3-point range for the game.
“Northwestern played a great game. I thought that's as well as they've executed in any games that we've seen,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “They're really evolving right now as a team. They're playing really well together and they should be. They have a lot of returning players from an extremely good team last year.
“We came out and really played well. We had a good plan. When they adapted to our plan, we could not adapt very well.”
After using a solid start to build a double-digit cushion and leading the entire first half, Michigan was out of sorts and couldn’t get many open looks against Northwestern’s matchup zone in the second half.
Over the first five minutes, the Wolverines missed their first four shots, committed a shot-clock violation out of a timeout and scored just one point when Abdur-Rahkman split a pair of free throws 30 seconds into the half.
Northwestern capitalized on the rough patch, making four straight shots during a 10-0 run that was capped by a Scottie Lindsey layup to pull ahead, 37-33, with 15:09 to go.
But after Michigan closed to within two, 41-39, following a pair of Jordan Poole free throws at the 13:04 mark, the offense stalled and everything started to unravel.
Over the next nine-plus minutes, the Wolverines missed eight of their next nine shots attempts and suffered two scoring droughts that lasted roughly three and four minutes. The lone basket was a layup by Wagner with 12:15 remaining.
During the stretch, Michigan missed four consecutive free throws – two by Wagner and one apiece by Zavier Simpson and Abdur-Rahkman – and turned the ball over three times as the deficit swelled to 54-44 following a 3-pointer and floater by Bryant McIntosh with 3:43 to play.
“We were trying to read it,” Beilein said of Northwestern’s zone. “We missed a couple shots early and once they adapted — you got to be so good in this. I don't know if we had a week prep we could make a big difference. It is really good. You very rarely see it with that type of length everywhere.”
Following two free throws from Simpson, Charles Matthews snapped Michigan’s nearly 10-minute field-goal drought with a 3-pointer from the corner before Wagner added a three-point play to cut it to 56-52 with 2:01 remaining.
But that’s as close as it would get as Michigan was held scoreless the rest of the way and couldn’t get the stops it needed as McIntosh hit a runner and Lindsey added three free throws in the final 1:25 to seal it.
McIntosh finished with 24 points and Lindsey 19 for Northwestern (15-10, 6-6), which avenged last week’s 58-47 loss in Ann Arbor and has beaten Michigan at home in five of the last seven meetings.
Junior center talks about what went wrong in the second half of Tuesday's 61-52 road loss. James Hawkins
"We didn't get a lot of stops so we couldn't get running. We couldn't get in a flow when you don't have transition,” Wagner said of the second half. “We missed a lot of free throws, too, and didn't make shots. That's how it goes.
“I think we didn't do a good job making decisions. I think there were a lot of shots (we missed) that we've been making in the past.”
Unlike the first meeting where Michigan settled for 3-pointers and struggled to knock down any open shots early on, the Wolverines got off to a solid start and built a 13-3 lead with 15:26 left in the first half following a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer.
However, during the opening blitz freshman Isaiah Livers fell hard to the ground after a transition layup and hobbled back down the court. He was replaced by Robinson just two minutes into the contest and didn’t return to action.
Northwestern missed its first six shots and didn’t make its first basket until the 15:43 mark, but still managed to use a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 19-17 with 8:23 left in the half.
From that point on, it turned into a two-man battle with Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman and Northwestern’s McIntosh and Lindsey carrying both teams down the stretch.
Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman combined to score Michigan’s final 11 points of the half, each scoring twice in the paint before Wagner fed Abdur-Rahkman for a 3-pointer to give Michigan a six-point lead with 35 seconds left.
McIntosh and Lindsey scored 10 of Northwestern’s final 12 points, the last coming on 3-pointer by Lindsey with six seconds left that trimmed the deficit to 32-29 at the break.
“I was not foolish enough to think they were going to do what they did last time,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “They were going to make adjustments. They were going to try to put us in spots where we were going to have a hard time.
“They hurt us early. I thought their pace — they were really moving the ball and cutting sharply. Throughout the course of the game, we started to adjust a little bit to what they were trying to do and just did our best."