The Michigan Wolverines were back in action Thursday night against the Northwestern Wildcats. This time, the visiting team. Michigan entered this game on a two-game losing streak and 5-5 in conference play. The team is simply just not playing competitive and aggressive basketball. Northwestern also entered this game on a losing streak of just one, but with a better conference record of 6-4. Both teams want a conference win and a chance to snap their losing streaks.
This game started as a battle. Kobe Bufkin came out doing just about everything that was needed for this team. A spark. Five points on the scoring end, three dimes, and was heavily active on the glass, with a game-leading 10 rebounds in the first half. For Northwestern, G Boo Buie was the only real threat, having 11 first-half points. Hunter Dickinson led all Michigan scorers with 10. However, Michigan’s shooting was awful. 29% from the field and 23.1% on three-pointers.
Foul trouble was an issue again for this team. The development and mistakes made when developing are understandable. However, it’s the inconsistency that is what this team should be worrying about. Being more aggressive with shots, fading the defense, and not rushing a shot. Without having 25 team rebounds in the half, It would have been hard for this team to stay competitive initially. However, poor rebounding and less abundant scoring made it very hard for Northwestern to keep up. The Wolverines led 26-25 at halftime.
After an extremely sloppy first half, the Wolverines took off. The emergence of transfer forward Joey Baker was what helped this Michigan team play so much better in the second half of this game. His four-point play early in the second half is what ignited the Michigan spark. However, the player of the game and the one that had the most impact was Kobe Bufkin. He was outstanding tonight, playing great team basketball and finding the best available shot. He contributed a double-double, with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. Just two dimes short of a triple-double. In aid to Bufkin, Dickinson led the team in scoring with 19. He also added 3 boards and two assists. Baker also added a 14-point, three-rebound outing.
Michigan improved in shooting, played better defense, and most importantly, absolutely dominated on the glass with 42 rebounds. Special shoutout to Terance Williams for his contribution to that number. Northwestern, now on a three-game losing streak, just simply was stunned by the late efforts of the Wolverines. They fall to 6-5 in conference play and 15-7 on the season. Michigan improves to 12-10 on the season and a similar 6-5 in conference play, also snapping the two-game losing streak.
The Wolverines take on rival Ohio State on Sunday in Ann Arbor, at 1:00 pm. Although both programs are having struggles, a rivalry win is always a good thing to have.
Photo Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports