ANN ARBOR, Mich -- Michigan coach John Beilein turns 60 years old next week. He counts 72 years of age—adding one year for each time he has faced Northwestern.
“They’ve aged me 12 years,” Beilein joked. “Getting ready for them is incredible. It’s a tremendous challenge for our team to get ready for this game.”
The previous meetings between the Wolverines and Northwestern have historically been close contests. However, it wasn’t nearly the challenge Beilein had his top-ranked team prepared for. No. 1 Michigan cruised to the tune of a 68-46 victory.
It wasn’t till late in the second half when the plug was pulled on Northwestern’s chances. With Michigan leading 40-31, Dave Sobolewski forced a foul on a three-point attempt, sending him to the free-throw line after a timeout. A chance to climb back in place, he would miss all three shots.
After the missed opportunity, Northwestern went ice cold from the floor, and Michigan built an insurmountable lead.
“We didn’t play well tonight,” Sobolewski said. “We’ve got a lot of time and lot of improvements to make. We’ve got to start scoring the ball.”
Different from Northwestern, the Wolverines were pushing all the right buttons on offense. Trey Burke, a National Player of the Year candidate, led all scorers with 18 points and added eight rebounds. Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Jon Horford each chipped in with double-figure scoring.
Only Alex Olah reached double figures for NU; he had 10 points.
“They were just being more aggressive and knocking down shots,” said Olah. “They really got it on fastbreak, and that killed us.”
Northwestern’s struggles on offense continued, but much of that can be attributed to Michigan’s preparations for the Princeton offense. Many pundits predicted the Wolverines could be looking past Northwestern to their game with No. 3 Indiana. Their work in practice proved otherwise.
“I tip my hat to the scout team this past week, they did a great job demonstrating [Northwestern] on the offensive end and the defensive end,” said Burke.
Michigan played without junior center Jordan Morgan, who suffered a sprained ankle on Sunday against Illinois. However, it was fine just having Burke in the lineup. The point guard’s play opened up Michigan’s offense.
“He’s tough,” Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. “He’s a very, very good player. You can try to concoct a defense to stop him, but he’s not greedy—he finds guys.”
All appeared to be going right for Northwestern as it upset No. 12 Minnesota at Welsh-Ryan Arena last week. Since then, there have been two consecutive road losses, each offering handing the Wildcats a hard punch in the gut.
NU’s time on the road ends for the time being, as it returns home to play Purdue. The Wildcats hope they can get back on track.
“It’s really important,” Olah said. “We have to come out with a win. It’s a beatable team, but they’re really, really tough.”