Michigan coach John Beilein discusses the development of Zak Irvin, praising the Wolverines defense in a win over Northwestern.

Michigan coach John Beilein discusses the development of Zak Irvin, praising the Wolverines defense in a win over Northwestern.

Michigan's push to the NCAA tournament received a boost Thursday afternoon as the Wolverines downed Northwestern 72-70 in overtime.
"Just a heck of a basketball game," Michigan coach John Beilein said afterward. "Every time that we have played Northwestern these last few years, that's been the game. They had a near miss at our place last year. 
 
"We had double overtime at that game last year at their place. This year's was very close with a minute left to go, a minute and a half left to go, and now this game today."
Alex Olah's put back in the closing seconds of regulation forced overtime between the Wolverines and Wildcats. 
Michigan Junior Zak Irvin knocked down a mid-range jumper from just inside the three-point line to put the Wolverines up for good with just 3.0 seconds remaining.

"He was playing his maturity to his game, and should be, as he has grown as a player at Michigan," Beilein said. "And that's one of those next steps is that he has always been good in tough situations. But at the same time, when you're coming back and playing the Purdues and the Indianas, or playing here in Indianapolis, there's a little bit more on you, and I think he understands it much better than he might have done over the last couple of years. 

"This is what it's going to be. If I'm going to be a good player, I need to be able to respond in these things, and I will respond during this type of environment."

Michigan has found it to be a difficult task playing consistently on the defensive end all season long, but Thursday, the Wolverines were up to the challenge.

Northwestern shot just 36.8-percent from the field for the game, including an unseasonably cool 8-for-32 in the first half alone.

"Our defense was exceptional," Beilein said. "We have been giving up about five or six extra easy baskets a year, and that's really led to one of the highest defensive field-goal percentages we have ever had. 

"And we showed that up today and did a great job against a team that has a lot of ways to score the ball. (Tre) Demps can get 30, right. (Bryant) McIntosh, a brilliant point guard. And then Olah has become a really good player."

Michigan advances to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament Friday against top seeded Indiana, tipping off at noon. With a win, the Wolverines could solidify a spot in the NCAA tournament.


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