No. 13 Michigan edges Northwestern in OT

No. 13 Michigan edges Northwestern in OT

Published Jan. 11, 2012 8:01 p.m. ET

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s wunderkind point guard
was nowhere to be found during the postgame interviews Wednesday night.

Trey Burke certainly wasn’t ducking the media. Why would he? He had just made
six consecutive free throws in the final 1:05 of overtime to lead the
13th-ranked Wolverines to a 66-64 squeaker over Northwestern at Crisler Center.

No, this snub was mandated by coach John Beilein after Burke played all 45

It was intended to try to preserve Burke’s young body for Saturday afternoon’s
game at Iowa.

“I told him to get his butt in the cold tub,” Beilein said. “He’ll be a good
interview later on, not tonight.”

Burke continues to make Michigan fans say, “Darius who?” on a nightly basis. He
finished with 19 points, seven assists and only one turnover.

“The kid’s making plays,” Michigan captain Zack Novak said of Burke, who was
forced into a starting role immediately because Darius Morris decided to leave
early for the NBA. “He’s got the ball at the end of the game, and we’re all
confident in him.

“You can’t faze him. He’s a tough kid.”

Sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. also scored 19 and played the entire game for
Michigan. Beilein allowed Hardaway to attend the postgame interviews, but not
for long. Hardaway also was ordered to hit the cold tub to help his body

The fact Burke and Hardaway were forced to play such excessive minutes shows
just how much trouble the Wolverines (14-3, 4-1 Big Ten) were in all night and
how close they came to getting upset.

The problems started early on when Novak, the heart and soul of the Wolverines,
was called for his second personal just 3:15 into the game and didn’t play the
rest of the first half.

Northwestern (11-5, 1-3) led by as many as 10 points early in the second half.
The Wildcats had a chance to win iin regulation with the score tied, but a
turnover in the final seconds gave Michigan another chance in overtime.

On a night when the Wolverines shot 33.3 percent, they won the game with
defense and late offensive rebounds. Northwestern scored just four points,
including no baskets, in the final eight-plus minutes of regulation.

“Our defense bailed out the lack of shooting,” Beilein said.

“That’s what won us the game,” Novak added.

Michigan also got 12 of its 17 offensive rebounds in the second half and
overtime. Northwestern was outscored 13-0 in second-chance points, all of the
damage coming after halftime.

When Beilein saw so many of his players struggling to score, he implored them
to crash the boards during a timeout.

“He said, ‘You guys need to attack the rim. We need three players at the rim
every time to get these extra possessions,’” Michigan guard Stu Douglass

The Wildcats, the Big Ten’s worst rebounding team, were especially vulnerable
up front because they played a smaller lineup at times with 6-foot-9, 220-pound
John Shurna moving from forward to center.

Michigan received numerous extra chances late in the game, especially off
missed 3-point attempts. The Wolverines needed every one of them.

“Agonizing is a good word,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said of watching
another opponent get all those offensive boards.

“That was huge for us,” Douglass said. “One possession we got three (offensive
rebounds) in a row. It takes a toll on them.”

Struggling to beat Northwestern at home might not sound like much of a victory,
but that’s not at all how the Wolverines were viewing it. To win when you’re
not at your best, at least offensively, is often the sign of a good team.

“It’s big to win any game when you play like that, but to beat that team, I
think they’re much better than their record in the Big Ten is showing right
now,” Novak said. “They’ve got two potential pros (Shurna and Drew Crawford,
who combined for 41 points).

“To beat that team when we’re not firing on all cylinders is encouraging.”

Beilein, whose team is off to its best five-game start in Big Ten play in his
five years in Ann Arbor, was quick to point out that this was Michigan’s best
victory of the season in terms of the opponent’s RPI. The Wildcats were ranked
No. 30.

“It’s not your grandfather’s Northwestern,” Beilein said. “This is a really
good team. We’re very fortunate to get this win.”

Someone asked Novak whether he felt the Wolverines had snuck out with a little
fool’s gold by winning with a less-than-overwhelming performance.

Novak would have none of it.

“Not at all,” he answered. “I thought we were tough. We made plays when we
needed to, especially defensively. We made free throws down the stretch. Good
teams find ways to win.”

And then they hit the cold tub.


Dancing Denard

Michigan’s football team was introduced during a first-half
timeout to recognize its Sugar Bowl victory. The best part of the night came
when quarterback Denard Robinson and a few teammates started whooping it up as
part of the Maize Rage student section throughout the second half. Nobody in
the building was having more fun than Shoelace.