Northwestern will look for the series sweep tonight, as it downed the Wolverines, 74-60, on Jan. 18th. The Wildcats are now 4-7 in Big Ten play following a 71-70 victory over then-No. 24 Illinois on Saturday. The victory halted a three-game skid, in which the Wildcats fell to then-No. 18 Wisconsin, then-No. 16 Minnesota and No. 1 Ohio State in succession.
Michigan also sits at 4-7 in the Big Ten and is coming off a 65-62 victory over Penn State on Sunday. The Wolverines have now won two of three, with the only loss coming to No. 1 Ohio State, as they defeated then-No. 25 Michigan State on Jan. 27th and Iowa on Jan. 30th.
With regards to the all-time series, tonight's matchup marks the 159th meeting between Northwestern and Michigan. The Wolverines currently hold a 102-56 lead over the Wildcats.
Northwestern's Jan. 29th matchup with Ohio State ended in heartbreaking fashion, as the Wildcats fell by just one point, 58-57. They gave the No. 1 team in the land all it could handle, rallying from a 13-point second half deficit to push the Buckeyes to the brink. OSU's Jared Sullinger hit the second of two free throws with 3.5 seconds left to hand Northwestern its third consecutive loss (all to ranked opponents). Undaunted, the Wildcats bounced back with a gutsy 71-70 victory over Illinois on Saturday. Showing no ill- effects of their recent slump, the Wildcats jumped out to an early 11-point lead on the Illini and never looked back, holding on for the tight victory. Michael Thompson led Northwestern, which never trailed in the game, with 22 points. He also hit a pair of late free throws which all but sealed the final result. The Wildcats drained 11 of their 16 free throws over the final 20 minutes to hold on for the win. Northwestern wins with the long ball, as it currently ranks No. 7 in the country in three-pointers made per game (9.2). John Shurna paces the team in scoring (18.5 ppg) and has knocked down 49 threes. Thompson has hit a team-high 56 three-pointers and is second on the team in scoring, while Drew Crawford is third on the squad in both scoring (12.7 ppg) and three-pointers made (39). The Wildcats score 75 ppg and allow 68 ppg on the other end.
Michigan's Jan. 27th victory over Michigan State marked its first win over a ranked opponent this season. Five of the team's 10 losses this year have come against nationally ranked foes, as the Wolverines have fallen to then-No. 9 Syracuse, then-No. 3 Kansas, then-No. 15 Minnesota and Ohio State twice, when it held a No. 2 ranking and also a No. 1 ranking. The five losses came by an average of just 5.6 ppg. The win over Michigan State kicked off a mini run of success, exhibited most recently in the Wolverines' downing of Penn State. Michigan trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half before going on a 17-7 run to tie the game at 53 with 4:41 remaining. The Wolverines took a lead they would never give back, as Darius Morris hit a jumper with 3:56 remaining. Morris scored a team-high 23 points in the contest and continues to pace the squad on the year, scoring 15.2 ppg. Hardaway Jr. scores 12 ppg in support, as the only other Wolverine to average double figures. Michigan trails only Northwestern in the Big Ten rankings, hitting 8.3 three-pointers per game. Zack Novack has hit a team-high 46 three-pointers and ranks third on the team in scoring at 9.3 ppg. The Wolverines average 66.4 ppg and play strong defense, to the tune of 62.8 ppg allowed.
Both Northwestern and Michigan are quality teams playing in a tough Big Ten Conference. The Wildcats should get the win tonight behind a superior performance from beyond the arc.
GAME NOTES: Big Ten Conference action rolls on tonight as the Northwestern Wildcats travel to Crisler Arena for a showdown with the host Michigan Wolverines.