Michigan basketball knocks off Northwestern, 68-51: Game thread recap

Michigan Wolverines (11-10, 5-5 Big Ten) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (15-6, 6-4)

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Illinois.


Radio: WWJ-AM (950).

Line: Wildcats by 4½.

• Box score

Game notes: With less than two months until Selection Sunday, the Wildcats appear to be a solid NCAA tournament team, and the Wolverines aren’t even on the bubble, thanks to five losses in their past seven games. Still, this is something of a must-win for both teams: Michigan, just to show it can beat anyone these days, and Northwestern, to help an NCAA NET ranking that dropped nine spots, to No. 49, after a loss to Iowa on Tuesday.

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One of the teams U-M has beaten in that seven-game stretch, though, is Northwestern (which is part of the reason the Wildcats could really use a win tonight); the Wolverines crunched the ’Cats, 85-78, on Jan. 15 behind 20 points from Kobe Bufkin and 17 from Dug McDaniel. It wasn’t easy, though, as Michigan needed to rally from a two-point halftime deficit.

Michigan guard Jett Howard drives against Northwestern guards Boo Buie (0) and Chase Audige (1) during the second half Jan. 15, 2023 at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.
Michigan guard Jett Howard drives against Northwestern guards Boo Buie (0) and Chase Audige (1) during the second half Jan. 15, 2023 at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

One big reason for that Northwestern lead: Guard Boo Buie, who put up 22 points against the Wolverines and added five assists and three rebounds, though he's never beaten U-M in four previous games. One big reason for the Northwestern collapse in the second half: Guard Chase Audige, who hit just three of his 14 shots from the field and didn’t get to the free throw line in scoring eight points. Few teams in the Big Ten rely as heavily on their guards as the Wildcats, who are getting 45.2% of their points nightly from Audige and Buie, who have combined for 31.6 points a game this season.

Michigan needs its guards to produce as well, but also has junior star Hunter Dickinson in the middle to turn to. Northwestern seems to have his number, however; after scoring 19 in his first game against the Wildcats, on Jan. 3, 2021, Dickinson has 19 in his past two games combined against NU, including just 10 in the Wolverines’ victory last month.

After wrapping things up in Evanston, the Wolverines return to Ann Arbor for a three-game homestand that opens Sunday with a visit from Ohio State, which is also well off the NCAA tournament radar, at 3-7 in conference play entering tonight’s tussle with Wisconsin. While we’re on the Badgers, that’s who the Wildcats face next, hosting Wisconsin on Sunday night.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball beats Northwestern, 68-51: Game thread recap