Jeremy Nash led all players and set a career high with 11 rebounds while playing lock-down defense to help Northwestern limit Michigan to just 22 second-half points.With the win, NU improves to 15-7 overall with a 4-6 mark in the Big Ten, while Michigan fell to an even 11-11 and also moved to 4-6 in conference play.
Northwestern's offense in the first half was clicking on all fronts as the 'Cats utilized an inside-out scoring attack. On several occasions, a quality offensive possession by NU resulted in layups for Mirkovic in the paint as the sophomore center converted five of his first six looks from the field for 10 points. Northwestern was also locked in from beyond the arc, knocking down six of its first eight 3-point attempts, including a stretch of five in a row as NU built a seven-point advantage.NU's unselfish play on offense was reflected in the fact that the 'Cats recorded assists on 13 of their 14 made field goals in the first half. Still, the Wolverines were able to hang in the game on the strength of two 3-pointers each by Laval Lucas-Perry and Stu Douglass as NU entered the locker room with a 35-30 lead.
The action grew a little choppy at the start of the second half with both teams combining for only two made field goals over the first five minutes out of the intermission. But Shurna helped get things going on the offensive end with back-to-back layups on either side of the 15-minute mark.That proved to be the start of the game-deciding run, a 21-4 spurt by the Wildcats covering over 10 minutes of play during which Crawford drilled two treys and a tough running baseline jumper to account for eight of his game-high 17 points. It was the fourth time this season Crawford has led the 'Cats in the scoring column; he also turned the trick when NU met Michigan in Ann Arbor on Jan. 10 and Crawford finished with 25.
More than 15 minutes into the second stanza, the Wolverines had still scored just seven points since halftime. Looking to put the game away with 4:42 remaining, Mirkovic sealed off his defender and took a perfect entry feed from Shurna, finishing the layup to put NU ahead 58-37 and send the 'Cats on their way to the victory.One key to Northwestern's win was its ability to put the clamps on defensively against Michigan's Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, one of the Big Ten's leading scoring duos. Harris--the conference's leading scorer--and Sims combined for just 15 points, 21 shy of their combined average of 36-plus per contest. Indiana at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Welsh-Ryan Arena.