[Bryan Fuller]

Michigan 80, Northwestern 60 Comment Count

Alex Cook January 13th, 2019 at 10:00 PM

With a home win over a struggling Northwestern team—one without Vic Law, perhaps its best player—Michigan set the record for the best start in program history at 17-0. The Wolverines scored over 1.4 points per possession in an outstanding first half, and were on cruise control for the rest of the game. Zavier Simpson was the headliner tonight for Michigan, scoring a career-high 24 points in response to Northwestern’s intentional indifference.

For the second straight game, Michigan got off to a fast start. The Wolverines opened with a 10-0 run: Ignas Brazdeikis put back a miss, Jon Teske hit two mid-range shots, a nice baseline play got Iggy another bucket, and Zavier Simpson banked in a contested sky hook. Northwestern got back into the game, as Ryan Taylor got a four point play and the Wildcat offense woke up a little bit. Northwestern eventually closed the gap to 2 with about 11 minutes in the half, but were unable to ever take a lead in this game, as Michigan kept up the scoring pace.

Michigan led 21-18 when Iggy found Isaiah Livers for a three; on the next possession, an awkward two-man game between Poole and Livers ended with Poole hitting an isolation three, and the lead was back up to 9. Dererk Pardon and Ryan Taylor each scored in double figures in the first half for Northwestern and kept within striking distance for a while, but those threes were the beginning of what was an extended 29-10 Michigan run to close the half — and effectively end the game.

Teske was phenomenal in the first half, scoring a few early baskets and playing aggressive defense on the other end of the floor. It was Teske who turned the game into a rout: within the span of about two and a half minutes towards the end of the half, Michigan’s center scored 11 points. He hit a three in response to an off-balance Taylor triple; sealed Barret Benson for good post position and a layup, then hit back-to-back open pick-and-pop threes set up by Eli Brooks. Charles Matthews and Simpson each scored easily after steals, and Michigan was up 22 at the break.



Michigan’s offense—which was unstoppable in the first half, as the Wolverines shot 14-17 on twos—went cold to start the second. Iggy scored on the opening possession after Teske sealed the help on a layup attempt, but Michigan only managed to score four points over eight minutes. For a while, Matthews was Michigan’s only source of offense — he made a euro-step layup, scored off an offensive rebound, and rejected a side ball-screen to dunk over Miller Kopp for an and-one. Everyone else was quiet though, and Northwestern trimmed Michigan’s lead to 13.

Simpson helped slam the door shut. Northwestern elected to defend him with Pete Nance, a bench big who was thrust into a starting role with the absence of Law, and had Nance play in the paint while Simpson was spotting up on the perimeter and sink under Simpson ball screens — clearly daring him to shoot. Simpson scored 12 points and made two threes in the first half, but Northwestern didn’t change its defense. Late in the game, Simpson made four straight jumpers: a three after getting the ball back following a steal, a late-clock mid-range step back, an open corner three, and an audacious step-back three off a screen. He took a heat check and missed, but he’d earned it.

Michigan scored 1.25 points per possession over the entire game, and they held Northwestern to under a point per possession — despite a standout performance from Pardon, who scored an efficient 20 points. The absence of the top wing on a Northwestern team that was already without a point guard led to predictably disjointed offense. With how well Michigan's offense was playing (Simpson and Teske in particular), the Wildcats didn't have a chance.

The Wolverines have the week off before traveling to Wisconsin for a big matchup with the Badgers on Saturday. Michigan’s still one of two undefeated teams in the country, and Michigan and Michigan State have already jumped out to an early lead in the conference race (with Maryland lurking).

[Box score after the JUMP]

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 10.16.45 PM.png



January 14th, 2019 at 9:13 AM ^

So this team is just really, really, really good. I was just talking about how if Z could score a few more points a game then they would really be on fire, he must have heard me. Charles continues to turn the ball over, 4 in this game, but I still think coach can fix him but he does seem to have hit his ceiling. Z and Big sleep hitting threes make these guys lethal.


January 14th, 2019 at 12:45 PM ^

I agree with the majority of this. I hope this game really helped Teske build confidence in the pick and pop game. If nothing else, he can stretch the floor just by being on the perimeter and hopefully help to open up the lanes for Iggy and Matthews.

I have long taken issue with Matthews inability to take care of the ball. He has looked better this year than last, where he would just put his head down and drive the rim regardless. But I think he needs to take care of the ball a bit more, stop settling for those mid range 2s, and look to make more team oriented plays. With his ability to dribble drive and the defenses continuously collapsing on him, it’s not infrequent that we see him dribble in and out of 2 or 3 guys trying to protect the lane. That leaves at least 1 teammate open. In my opinion, he could push his ceiling a bit if he can take care of the ball a bit more and start creating more for his teammates. The penetration drive for him should include the potential for a kick out or slip pass around a collapsing defender. Forcing too many shots is as bad as turning the ball over sans a shot.

Also, he travels at least 2 times a game and it drives me insane. He won’t be returning for a final year tho, so whatever we can get out of him and whatever they can teach him in the next 2 months is what he will be. And none of this is to say that he is not a great player, because he is. But damn, another year with JB and he might be able to take yet another step


Harlans Haze

January 14th, 2019 at 9:49 PM ^

Maryland beating down Wisconsin at the moment. They are an underrated team. Their front court of Fernando and Smith will be formidable. Fernando is the one player in Turgeon's tenure who I can remember actually improving over a year. Cowan's a good PG, but nothing like Simpson. They're athletic enough that they will give most teams a good game. The good thing is, they can always be out-coached.

A Lot of Milk

January 13th, 2019 at 10:56 PM ^

If Billy Donlon's "solution" for solving our offense was to just not guard Simpson at all and to never adjust from there, maybe it's a good thing he left to go work for Coach Lassie...

Reggie Dunlop

January 14th, 2019 at 12:33 AM ^

Collins said so in his postgame. Michigan has too much balance. They chose to take their chances with X/Z and Teske from three in order to hold down Matthews/Poole/Iggy. That's not crazy. We know the shooting numbers.The alternative is to go over ball screens for Simpson and give him a driving lane which isnt going to work out any better for NW.


January 14th, 2019 at 12:46 AM ^

If you knew this strategy would hold Mathews, Poole and Brazdeikis to a combined seven 3pt attempts and that Teske and Simpson would combine to take 15 between the two of them, I think you'd be horrified and expect it to have been another nail biter.

He played the odds, and it didn't work out in his favor.  The dealer might hit a 5 on 16 a couple times on you but you still don't start hitting against that hand.  You stick with the odds.

The question is, what are the odds anymore?  Teske came into this game 5-22.  But he had hit 4 for his last 12 after a 1-10 start.  My guess is that he's a legit 33-35% 3pt shooter and just started shaky because those were his first meaningful threes in college.

Simpson on the other hand came into tonight having hit <29% on 83 tries last season and was hitting <29% on 38 tries this season. He was 0-5 against Northwestern last month and was benched at the end of the game for it. 5-10 came out of nowhere.  Not sure how sustainable that is but I love that he was dared to shoot it and nailed them (often those are the hardest to make because it's in your head).

Donlon and company are still the last Big Ten team to beat Michigan, and their defense is pretty good.


January 13th, 2019 at 10:57 PM ^

Teske was brilliant.  Wasn't just the box score stuff - he set the tone early on defense by shutting down Pardon on some early possessions.  Northwestern found a way to get Pardon his points, but they mostly had to abandon the idea of just isolating him on Teske and having him work the post.

yossarians tree

January 14th, 2019 at 10:25 AM ^

Amazing to see an athlete's play blossom when he starts getting some confidence. Reports have been that he hits a good percentage of threes in practice but tightens up in the games. If he starts hitting that shot consistently it adds another gear for this team--not only because he scores more but for the larger reason that he will draw the other team's bigs outside and open things up for others. His passing and court awareness are also improving quickly.

This might piss off some people but the guy he should emulate is Bill Laimbeer. Perhaps he doesn't have the nasty demeanor but in addition to being a terrific defender and rebounder, Laimbeer was also a really good three-point shooter if people remember. Maybe the first true stretch five in the history of the game.


January 13th, 2019 at 11:12 PM ^

Obviously a great performance. Love this team. Teske and X were especially great tonight. My only complaint is why not more Johns tonight, as well as others  this game was over at halftime  we need to expand the bench  Tonight was a missed opportunity 



Indy Pete - Go Blue

January 13th, 2019 at 11:14 PM ^

Also worth noting, Livers had an O rating of 179.  Who could have predicted that he would shoot catch and shoot 3's consistently better than Duncan Robinson?  You combine that with his incredible athleticism, relentless effort, and ability to create extra possessions on the glass, and you have yet another X factor.  Honestly, how many X factors can a team have?!


January 14th, 2019 at 1:24 AM ^

1) It wasn't exactly over at halftime.  Northwestern was hanging around within 13-15 until about 8 minutes - that's not quite over.  It wasn't fully over until about 5 min left when M got it back to 20+ after a Simpson three.

2) Teske was having a near career game and didn't have a single foul. So he played 35 minutes.  There was no need or desire to even take him out.

3) You don't expand the bench by playing your bench guys a few more minutes in games here and there.  That's negligible playing time.  The development is happening in the many minutes and possessions they spend practicing.  Just because you don't see him playing, trust me, they're practicing a lot.  He is developing!  The games are simply a chance to apply what you're doing in practice.  Games are the payoff, not the opportunity. 


January 14th, 2019 at 7:57 AM ^

It's nice to see that free throw shooting has evolved from "Total Liability" to "Not That Bad."  Mid to upper 70s% is something I never thought we'd consistently see while watching some of those early non-conference games.  That being said, it would still be nice to have Duncan Robinson here to hit those FTs during the last minute or two of the game, when we inevitably find ourselves in a close game at the end.


January 14th, 2019 at 10:11 AM ^

I woke up on Friday morning thinking to myself, I need to go see this team before the season is over. So I grabbed a lower bowl ticket to last night's game and man I'm glad I did. What a performance. Watching this team up close like that is an absolute treat. And got to give it to the Sunday night crowd. We all showed out and the team did one better. Z and Teske had the place jumping. Good night overall. Let's keep this thing going next Saturday at the Trohl Center.