For Northwestern’s postseason hopes, if Thursday was the killer, this was the funeral. Thanks to Manny Harris on offense and Stu Douglas on defense, Michigan squeaked out a narrow victory Sunday afternoon at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Great praise has to go to Douglas for his defense on Northwestern’s Craig Moore. For 36 minutes, Douglas chased Moore through screen after screen and never allowed NU’s shooting guard to get a good look. I think it has become pretty clear that no matter how well Kevin Coble plays, or no matter who else scores, Craig Moore needs to something for Northwestern to win. On Sunday, he scored only 6 points and shot 2-of-10 overall and 1-of-6 from behind the three point line. On the other side of the court, Northwestern had no answer for Michigan’s Manny Harris. Harris took over the game at the start of the second half and in overtime and ended up posting 26 points and grabbing 3 key steals. Northwestern might have increased their athletic ability as a team, but even NU’s best defenders couldn’t seem to stop Harris without committing a foul.
Though Moore was ineffective, Northwestern did get great play from a freshman big man for the second straight game as John Shurna followed Luka Mirkovic’s lead and scored 17 points while grabbing 8 rebounds. Unfortunately, Mirkovic was out sick and couldn’t help produced points in the middle. This was a problem as NU’s center rotation of Kyle Rowley, Davide Curletti, and Ivan Peljusic scored just 6 points and pulled down 6 rebounds. Also, both Peljusic and Rowley had major blunders which potentially cost NU critical points. Rowley had multiple travels and threw a terrible pass which took NU out of possessions. Peljusic missed 4 free throws and a layup on what might have been the best play Bill Carmody ever drew up. Maybe Peljusic was rusty, he certainly could have played better, but Rowley I don’t know. He seems a second slow on everything he does which leads to walks and late/bad passes. Perhaps it is freshman indecision, but he, and all his teammates, need to get over this.
Speaking of indecision, NU could have won if John Shurna would have just thrown the ball down the court after the NU steal at the end of regulation. Kevin Coble was open for a layup. I knew that was going to hurt.
Coble scored 23 points for NU, his most since the Indiana game. He also should get credit for playing all 45 minutes of the overtime contest. However, his three point shot continues not to fall (1-of-6) and overall Coble hasn’t really been able to get going in some time. He seems to be forcing the ball more of late which results (5-of-17 today) in some very ugly misses.
Michael Thompson’s early foul trouble also hurt NU today. When Thompson scores Northwestern wins, but thanks to his foul problems today he spent much of the first half on the bench and NU only got 27 points. It was enough for the lead, but Michigan provided the ‘Cats with chances to score much more.
So, where does NU go from here? Well, to borrow from the football team who was honored at halftime, they need to try and go 1-0 vs Ohio State on Wednesday. This game wasn’t nearly as bad as the Illinois or Purdue game, but it is hard not to think NU should have won all three. They could be 6-1 at home in the Big Ten easily. But they aren’t and there isn’t a thing anybody can do about it, so it’s time to try and move forward. Ohio State’s choice to play zone the entire game could allow Moore his first open looks in awhile, but NU will have to contend with a couple very large and athletic Buckeye big men inside.