ANN ARBOR, MICH. — Northwestern was playing without leading scorer Vic Law Sunday night in Ann Arbor, and it showed early. Michigan ran out to a 10-0 lead behind four early points from sophomore Ignas Brazdeikis and four from junior centerJon Teske and appeared set to run away from the Wildcats.
They eventually would in an 80-60 win, U-M’s school record 17th straight to start a season without a loss. But Chris Collins’ team responded to the bad start with six straight, including a four-point play from Ryan Taylor to keep it a game early.
The Wildcats rallied within two, in fact, before junior point guard Zavier Simpson, having missed his first two triples badly from the corner, hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to push the lead back to 19-14 at 11:00.
Sophomore Isaiah Livers pushed the lead back to six, 24-18, with a triple on his first shot to provide a spark off the bench. Sophomore Jordan Poole added another from 26 feet to extend the lead back to nine and give U-M some breathing room.
Simpson sat for a stretch, but he remained aggressive when he reentered. He hit another triple from the top right of the key, and he found Brazdeikis after a rebound for a breakaway opportunity. Brazdeikis was fouled and made only one of two, but the Wolverines led 35-22 at 4:24, their biggest advantage.
Teske answered another Taylor three with one of his own from the top to keep the lead at 13.
The last two minutes then became the Teske show. The ‘Big Sleep’ sparked a 10-0 run to finish the half with two triples from the same spot left of the top of the key, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Matthews and Simpson added steals and finishes to send U-M to the break with a 50-28 edge.
Teske led all scorers with 17 points and added six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in the first half, while Simpson added 12 points and Brazdeikis nine. U-M shot 67.7 percent from the floor in the half; Northwestern didn’t score in the last 2:47 of the stanza, turning it over three times.
Michigan opened the scoring with a Brazdeikis drive and finish for its biggest lead, but the Wolverines got sloppy in the first four minutes of the half. Northwestern cut the lead to 54-36 at 15:15 on a Dererk Pardon finish at the rim; it was 54-39 after Teske missed a putback and Miller Kopp scored inside for the Wildcats.
Matthews final stopped the run with a putback at 13:10, but Pardon scored again inside and Brazdeikis picked up his second foul— U-M’s sixth to only one for Northwestern — and it was a 56-41 game at 11:09, the second TV timeout.
The Wildcats cut it to 13 before Matthews’ drive and dunk, and-one, pushed it back to 16, but it was 59-45 with 10 minutes remaining when Pardon drove and scored.
Simpson then took over for U-M. He scored five straight for Michigan and made it 65-48 with his third triple at 8:40 to make it comfortable again.
Simpson continued the hot hand with a pull-up jumper, and Livers’ triple and free throws put Michigan up 20 again at 5:39, 72-52. Simpson brought the crowd to its feet again with a corner triple, his fourth of the game, and then hit a stepback three off the dribble that gave him 24 points and made it 78-54, ending any doubt.
Poole got the Wolverines to the 80 mark with a drive and finish to cap the scoring.
Teske finished with a double double, notching 11 rebounds to go with his 17 points, Matthews added 13 and Brazdeikis 11 in the win. Simpson finished 5-of-10 from three-point range.