ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- John Beilein said it in his post game interview and Saturday night it rang true once again; sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
“Just another night, just another game,” Beilein said with a smile afterward. “If you tell us we shoot 34-percent and we win a game at home, we’ve got to be very pleased with that believe it or not.”
“So we get a ‘W,’” Beilein said. “I don’t know how but we ended up getting it and we’ll take it. Really proud of our kids played through some adversity.”
Michigan was looking for other contributors against the Wildcats and freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman provided a spark in the first start of his career, in place of an injured Spike Albrecht. Rahkman scored nine points including the final bucket of the game for the Wolverines on a big three from the left wing.
Caris LeVert led Michigan in scoring with 18-points on 7-of-19 shooting, also tallying six rebounds and seven assists. Derrick Walton Jr. was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 14-points and five rebounds.
Michigan and Northwestern exchanged buckets over the first five minutes, the Wildcats holding an 11-10 advantage at the first official media timeout.
Michigan then made the first big run of the game, scoring 11 straight points capped off by a pair of three-pointers from LeVert and Walton Jr. to give the Wolverines a 21-11 lead as Northwestern took a timeout with 11:29 to play in the first half.
The Wolverines lead would reach as many as 14 before halftime but the Wildcats made a run of their own.
“We couldn’t stop him down in low,” Beilein said. “You just think about this kid, a really good player out of Romania, played a lot of European basketball, pick and roll, and now he’s got two freshmen, Ricky and Mark, he’s picking on, and an undersized center. So he was just too much and we had to play zone, and it helped us.”
A Vic Law jumper just before the end of the half actually gave Northwestern a 32-31 advantage after 20 minutes.
Northwestern continued that attack to start the second half, utilizing a 7-2 run to lead 39-34 at the first television timeout. Olah scored the first five points of the second frame for the Wildcats.
With Doyle out for the second half with symptoms of an upper respiratory issue, Bielfeldt came on to provide a spark for Michigan offensively. Bielfeldt scored five straight points including a three-pointer to tie the game back up at 39.
Following a transition lay-in by Abdur-Rahkman, Chris Collins called a timeout with 8:17 to play and the game still knotted at 45.
Michigan and Northwestern again exchanged points, Jershon Cobb connecting on a bucket from downtown, Walton Jr. doing the same for the Wolverines.
After a LeVert lay-up and three-pointer for Zak Irvin, Michigan appeared to gain some control of the game with a 53-49 advantage, just under four minutes to go.
A three-pointer by Scottie Lindsey cut Michigan’s lead to just one before Abdur-Rahkman confidently delivered a dagger from downtown, the final field goal of the game.
Northwestern would have one more chance, down just two-points and Bryant McIntosh with the ball in his hands. After passing up a wide-open three, McIntosh came free on the left side of the paint, missing a lay-up as the Wolverines survived.