(Preview from The Sports Network)
GAME NOTES: The Michigan Wolverines and the Northwestern Wildcats will square off tonight in a primetime Big Ten Conference matchup at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois.
The Wolverines are currently in the midst of a stretch in which they play five of seven games on the road. The stretch began on Jan. 15th in a 80-61 loss at Indiana. Michigan has lost four consecutive games and now sits at just 1-4 in Big Ten play.
Tonight marks the first of a three game homestand for the Wildcats. They follow Michigan with a non-conference showdown with SIU-Edwardsville, before taking on conference opponent Wisconsin on Sunday. Northwestern closed their non-conference schedule with a 10-1 mark, but have posted just a 2-4 record in Big Ten play. The team last played on Jan. 15th in an overtime loss to Michigan State. The defeat snapped a two-game win streak.
With regard to the all-time series, tonight's matchup will mark the 158th meeting between Michigan and Northwestern. The Wolverines currently hold a 102-55 edge over the Wildcats.
The Wolverines couldn't do anything right in their loss to Indiana. The first half saw them post just 15 points on 23.8 percent shooting, while the second half saw them allow a whopping 50 points to the Hoosiers. Indiana shot an incredible 70.8 percent from the field and drained 6-of-9 three-pointers in the second half. Darius Morris seemed the only Wolverine not encumbered by lackluster play. He scored 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting and handed out seven of the team's nine assists. Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan and Zack Novak all added 10 points in support of Morris. The Wolverines typically fare better at the offensive end, as they score 66.9 ppg and make eight three-pointers per game. Morris continues to pace the offense, scoring 15.7 ppg on 50 percent shooting. He also leads the team with 131 assists against just 50 turnovers. Hardaway Jr. adds 11.2 ppg in support. Novak leads the team with 6.7 rpg and adds 9.2 ppg. Michigan holds opponents to 61.6 ppg.
Northwestern fought admirably against a tough Michigan State squad, but eventually fell, 71-67, in overtime. The Wildcat defense was smothering in the first half, limiting MSU to 18 points on 26.1 percent shooting. They could not maintain their high level of defensive intensity in the second half however, as MSU scored 42 points and made 12-of-24 field goal attempts. They were outscored 11-7 in the overtime period to suffer the loss. Drew Crawford led the team in defeat, scoring 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, although he did commit four turnovers and did not register an assist. Michael Thompson added 15 points and Luka Mirkovic added 10.
Mirkovic also struggled to maintain possession, as he turned the ball over six times. The trend was contagious, as the Wildcats turned the ball over 16 times in the game. They are typically more careful with the basketball, posting a plus-3.9 turnover margin on the year. They also outscore their opponents by 8.8 ppg, largely due to a balanced attack, which generates 77.2 ppg. John Shurna leads the offensive charge, scoring 19.3 ppg on 53.8 percent shooting, including 54.5 percent from downtown. He is also second on the team with 53 assists and pulls down a solid 4.5 rpg. Thompson adds 15.1 ppg to boost the high-powered squad.
Michigan usually plays strong defense, but tonight should prove challenging, as Northwestern is sure to give the Wolverines fits.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117) -- Evanston, Illinois. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Michigan 10-3, Northwestern 7-1. Away Record: Michigan 1-2, Northwestern 3-4. Neutral Record: Michigan 0-2, Northwestern 1-0. Conference Record: Michigan 1-4, Northwestern 2-4. Series Record: Michigan leads, 102-55.
Tuesday, January 18th, 9:00 p.m. ET
TSN PREDICTION: Northwestern 75, Michigan 70