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Top Plays: Northwestern 2019, Part Two

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The 50-28 first half onslaught featured breakout offensive performances from Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the school record 17-0 start, there’s been a small sentiment that Michigan plays down to lesser competition.

After the 62-60 road victory over Northwestern on Dec. 4, the Wolverines played five teams outside Ken Pomeroy’s top-100 teams. Outside of two comfortable decisions over Air Force and Binghamton, the other three winning margins were:

  • 11 over No. 102 South Carolina
  • Eight over No. 211 Western Michigan
  • 10 over No. 107 Illinois

The Wildcats started a trend of Michigan playing too close for comfort against mediocre foes. After a 80-60 rout over Chris Collin’s program Sunday night, that trend may be done.

The Top Plays mostly populated the 50-28 domination in the first half.

Zareem Adbul Jabbar, or Lew Alsimpson?

Zavier Simpson hit yet another hook shot to cap off a 10-0 run to open the game. He’s connecting on these enough for stats makers to track his attempts.

That came before the Illinois game. After missing his first attempt versus the Wildcats, he’s now 8-of-12 on his “submarine hook.”

It created an early lead to put Collins and company on their heels, and portended a huge night for the junior point guard.

Triples start to stretch first-half lead

After the early onslaught, the visitors returned the game to normalcy.

With Dererk Pardon jamming one down at the 9:34 mark, Michigan only led 21-18. At that point, the offense had only drained one of seven attempts from three.

First, Isaiah Livers (45.8 percent from three) sprung free after two screens on an inbounds set. Next, Jordan Poole utilized his patented jab step, creating room for a stepback trey.

Lastly, Simpson connected on his first three of the night. He missed his first two attempts, which harkened back to an 0-for-5 effort last time he faced the Wildcats.

It provided much-needed confidence for later. As a team, Michigan hit 11 of its last 20 triples.

Teske enters Michigan history books alongside Moe Wagner

Jon Teske has showed flashes of his three-point touch. In the last game against Illinois, he converted a critical trey to keep the Illini at arm’s length early in the second half.

His form always looked fine, but for whatever reason, the shots weren’t dropping (5-of-22 entering Sunday). Much like Simpson, the work from behind the arc started paying off versus the Wildcats.

With three makes in the first half, Teske joined Moe Wagner as just the second player in Michigan history over 6-foot-10 with at least three triples in a game.

For the second straight game, the 7-footer tallied a double-double, generating 17 points and 11 boards.

His efforts pushed the lead to 46-28 nearing halftime. An 18-point lead would’ve been plenty, but then...

Matthews and Simpson steals essentially clinch game by halftime

Charles Matthews and Simpson picked pockets for two easy transition buckets. It bolstered the halftime cushion to 50-28.

Northwestern’s offense ranks just No. 113 nationally in efficiency. The idea of that unit outscoring Michigan by 22 in the next 20 minutes seemed futile at best.

Simpson punishes sagging Northwestern defense

Most of the second half featured the hosts in cruise control. While the visitors closed the deficit to 13 by the 9:35 mark, someone would make a key shot or dunk to keep distance.

Just before the under-eight timeout, though, Simpson turned it up a notch.

He entered the evening shooting under 30 percent from behind the arc. With three second-half triples, he finished the night 5-of-10 from deep. Now he’s connecting on a third of his attempts on the year.

He ended up with 24 points, five rebounds, four dimes and three steals.

With all the starters able to score from inside and out, the nation’s No. 20 efficiency offense has the versatility to challenge all comers.