In a game that the Michigan Wolverines absolutely had to have it took an extra five minutes, but they got their win 72-70. Junior wing Zak Irvin hit a contested pullup jumper in overtime to lift Michigan to the win that kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Michigan jumped out quickly on Northwestern using a 16-0 run to take a 16-3 lead. That run was accomplished by three Wolverines with sophomore Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scoring the first eight and then Duncan Robinson and Irvin combining to score the next eight.
"That was huge early," said John Beilein of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's run. "A few of those were late shot clock situations and then he had a nice drop off to Ricky (Doyle) as well. He has just really grown as a player."
It looked like things were under control for the Wolverines, but Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps simply wouldn’t let Northwestern go away. When Alex Olah hit a pair of free throws with 5:44 to go, Michigan’s lead was only at two, but the Wolverines would answer the rest of the half.
Michigan finished the half on a 9-2 run, and it was capped off by a bucket from Irvin to give the Wolverines a 34-25 lead going into the locker room.
After controlling Olah in the first half and getting some good shooting, Abdur-Rahkman hit a three to start the second half giving Michigan a 12 point lead, but that is when a familiar problem came up, frontcourt play.
Northwestern made the conscious decision to go to Olah in the second half. After scoring only four in the first half, Olah went to 16 in the second half to finish with 20 points and 13 rebounds. That physical dominance combined with some strong shooting from McIntosh and Demps allowed the Wildcats to get back in.
When Irvin hit a huge three with 7:58 to go to extend the lead back out to seven at 52-45 it looked like Michigan could cruise home, but that simply wasn’t to be. Northwestern just kept coming and the Wolverines missed key shots.
Olah hit a driving layup to cap a 7-0 run to tie the game at 52 with 5:46 to go, and down the stretch things would get interesting.
McIntosh hit a three to give Northwestern their first lead since it was 3-0, but Derrick Walton made an appearance driving and getting fouled and converting both free throw to take the advantage back at 56-55 with 2:34 left.
The teams would then exchange buckets and after Olah hit a big three to cut the Michigan lead to one with 17.0 seconds left, the Wolverines were forced to take two timeouts to get the ball in bounds. When they did eventually get it, Robinson appeared to travel, but it wasn’t called setting off Northwestern coach Chris Collins.
Eventually split a pair to give Michigan a two point lead, but Olah tied it at the buzzer with an offensive rebound sending the game to overtime.
Even though Olah had a huge bucket, Irvin said Michigan never lost confidence.
"It was tough when Olah had to put back, but none of our guys had their heads down, which is great and how we play," noted Irvin.
In the extra session it was all about Irvin and Robinson. The duo scored all 12 points for the Wolverines including Irvin’s 17 foot contested pull up jumper with three seconds left giving Michigan the win.
About his big bucket, Irvin said, "Coach B. put the ball in my hands. And what was possible or find our big man rolling. And you know, I just had enough space to let it go."