The 8th seeded Wolverines (20-11, 10-8 Big Ten) squared up against the 9th seeded Northwestern Wildcats (20-11, 8-10 Big Ten) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Tip off was at noon EST Thursday in Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, televised on BTN. This was a must-win game for Beilein’s Wolverines that are fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid, and they came out alive in overtime, 72-70.
Northwestern’s Senior Center Alex Olah won the tip off, allowing Tre Demps to hit the first shot of the game. The Wildcats led 3-0 early, but that would be their only lead of the half. Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman answered the call right away scoring eight consecutive points that started a 16-0 run, giving Michigan a 16-3 lead with 14:50 left in the half. Fresh legs off of the bench proved useful as winger Aubrey Dawkins had a follow up layup that put U-M up 13. Andrew Dakich hit his first three pointer of the year to keep the momentum rolling. Later on in the half, Demps hit a three, followed my a McIntosh layup to give Northwestern a boost while Michigan entered a cold 2-8 shooting streak.
The Half concluded with a deep Irvin two, Michigan led 34-25 with both sides were very cold. Northwestern missed 12 of its last 13 field goals, Michigan missed 9 of its last 12. The wildcats shooting 25% from the field and 5/14 from beyond the arc. Michigan shooting 41% from the field and 6/12 from downtown. The Wolverines had five turnovers, but they did a great job keeping Alex Olah in check.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman kicked the second half off with a three, but the Wildcats unleashed Alex Olah. The 7-0 Romanian Center scored eight straight points in the paint complimented by a Tre Demps three. Substitutions Ricky Doyle and Kam Chatman kept the wolverines level headed with a pair of field goals. The Wolverines Led 49-40 going into a timeout at 10:25. McIntosh and Demps counter with two scores after a couple of incomplete wolverine possessions, and Taphorn hit a huge three; wildcats getting hot. A derrick Walton Jr. turnover results in an Alex Olah post move for a layup over Doyle that ties the game at 52 with 5:40 left in the game. Olah was 1 for 7 in the first half, but with Donnal in foul trouble, Doyle had trouble keeping him in check, allowing him to hit 5 of his 7 shots thus far. Irvin fouled coming up the court late in the game gave him two free throws, as U-M was in double bonus. Irvin made one of two giving Michigan a 59-55 lead with 28.1 seconds remaining, but the big man Olah hit a three in transition. Northwestern down one playing tight inbound defense forced Beilein to take his final two timeouts of the game. The whole crowd is on their feet as this is one of the most exciting, low scoring games this season. Duncan Robinson is fouled off of the inbound sending him to the line for two free throws. The 90% charity strike shooter only came out with one, putting Michigan up 60-58. Tre Demps comes down the court with time running off the clock. He puts up a floater and misses, but Alex olah grabs the rebound puts back a bunny from the key to tie the game as time expires. We’re going to overtime.
5 minutes on the clock and Alex Olah wins another tip, but Tre Demps misses a mid-range fade-away with time running down on the shot clock. Duncan Robinson hits a big corner three, UM 63, NW 60 with 4:20 left to play. Free throws by both teams are followed by a great cut to the rim and finger roll by McIntosh. Irvin makes a pair of free throws, but Demps gets an offensive rebound that results in a three, Northwestern down 1, 66-67 with 1:55 remaining. Zak Irvin, who seemed to be the only offensive weapon late in the game, misses a mid range shot that led to Demps hitting a floater in transition. Northwestern takes the lead 68-67 for the first time since their 3-0 lead early in the game. Taphorn was fouled and made both of his free throws, 70-67. The Stakes are rising and the game wascoming down to the wire as Duncan Robinson hit a crucial three pointer that tied the game 70-70 with 29.3 seconds left in overtime. Michigan gets the ball back, and with three seconds left, Zak Irvin hit a game winning shot from the right elbow. Northwestern’s inbound was intercepted by Walton and the game ends 72-70.
Coach John Beilein on Junior Forward Zak Irvin’s game winning shot
“It is exactly what I drew up, it is one of our easiest plays. You know I go to Zak and he hadn’t been successful, so I said I’m going to you one more time.” Coach said in excitement. “I had the choice of him or a couple of other people, and he’s been a big shot guy his whole life. We decided to draw him up and he knocked it in.”
Michigan’s Duncan Robinson led the way with 21 points, Irvin had 19, and Abdur-Rahkman had 14. The Wolverines will face the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers Friday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. It will be difficult, but with a win, U-M will have a good shot at earning a slot in the NCAA Tournament.