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Michigan 56 - Northwestern 54: Nothing the easy way

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Michigan beats Northwestern, but it hardly looked pretty.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan's offense isn't fixed, this game doesn't signal the big change.

The Wolverines remain incapable of getting into the lane on offense, and that has thrown everything out of whack.  The offense continually devolves into a series of perimeter passes and failed drives rerouted into help.  Caris LeVert, one of last year's offensive load-bearers, has taken mostly to settling for pull up jump shots rather than getting shots at the rim either for himself or by opening teammates by forcing help.  Things are bleak.

Despite that, against a Northwestern squad that hit five of its 20 shots from outside and just 42% from the floor, MIchigan was able to squeak out the win thanks to a few breaks on plays most weren't expecting would come in the final few minutes -- a Beilfeldt block on Alex Olah, Zak Irvin's first three of the game, and a dagger from freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

Caris LeVert led the way with 18 points on 19 shots, but dished out seven assists.  Derrick Walton added 14 with five defensive rebounds which he proved capable at turning into fast break looks.  Irvin's only other contribution was hitting three of five free throws in back to back possessions in the first half.

Michigan may have cruised to a relatively easy win had it any answer for Alex Olah in the middle.  Northwestern went repeatedly into the inside and Olah was on fire hitting 9 of 12 from the floor and hitting all four of his free throw attempts.  JerShon Cobb also provided a spark, hitting three threes.

It is still a learning process for the young Michigan offense, but another win should help keep spirits high.  And if freshman Abdur-Rahkman puts together more positive outings like this (nine points including that late three), it would go a long way toward providing Michigan with the boost off the bench it has been looking for.