Northwestern Men’s Basketball Can’t Close Game, Loses to Michigan

Daily File Photo by Gabe Bider

Boo Buie prepares to move after stepping out of a screen. Buie’s late efforts, including 11 second-half points, weren’t enough as Northwestern fell to Michigan 72-70.

Northwestern’s inability to close out games again hampered any momentum or progress shown on Wednesday.

The Wildcats’ 72-70 loss to Michigan gives them six Big Ten losses by eight runs or less. NU (9-9, 2-7 Big Ten) were in a back and forth battle for much of the first half. The Wolverines (10-7, 4-3 Big Ten) held a slim three-point lead at intermission, thanks in large part to the Cats’ frontcourt effort.

Redshirt junior center Ryan Young, senior forward Pete Nance and junior forward Robbie Beran combined for 26 points. The other seven NU players who entered the half had five points on a two-for-eight shot.

Coming out of halftime, however, the Cats nearly pulled out of the game. A nine-point push from Michigan guard Eli Brooks boosted the Wolverines bench and student section, as Juwan Howard’s team held a double-digit lead early in the second period.

But NU did not lie down. A flurry of buckets and multiple trips to the free throw line created a 25-7 run that lasted over 10 minutes in the second period. Senior guard Ryan Greer buried a 3-pointer as the shot clock hit zero, giving the Cats a 56-55 advantage, their first lead since midway through the first half.

Tack on a pair of free throws from Nance, a layup from junior guard Boo Buie (who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half) and another layup from Beran, and NU firmly controlled a seven-point lead .

It was for naught, however, as the Wolverines clawed back into the game and regained the lead thanks to shooting both from the charity strip and from beyond the arc. Terrance Williams II’s hat-trick at 2:08 into the half — one of the team’s eight 3-pointers — gave Michigan a lead they wouldn’t give up.

Despite Michigan’s late-game run, the Cats were still in position to win the game, but a series of unfortunate events occurred in the final 17 seconds of regulation time. After a missed free throw by Young, it was Nance who tipped the ball over to Buie and secured extra possession with NU down three with 12 seconds left. The game that played out never materialized in the fashion trainer that Chris Collins probably wanted. Nance grabbed the ball into the left corner, NU looking for Buie to come out of a Young screen for a catch and 3-point shot.

But as the old saying goes, you always miss three late, and that’s what Michigan did.

Williams fouled Nance before the pass and the Ohio native uncharacteristically missed both free throws. The Cats’ fortunes looked bleak after the misfires. Nonetheless, Wolverines’ Jaron Faulds blessed NU with one last chance before the buzzer. In an effort to get up the pitch quickly, Buie was fouled. He made the first free throw, but missed the second, with Nance collecting the rebound and finding freshman Julian Roper II on the wing.

It would have been perfect: Roper, a native of Detroit with his family present, with the ball in his hands in the scenario that every player imagines. His attempt, however, failed.

The adversity of the season continues to mount for the Cats, compounded by their struggle to wrap up games. But with three of their next four games in Evanston, hopefully NU can gain some much-needed momentum.

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex

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