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Michigan basketball wins sloppy game against Northwestern

It wasn’t a pretty performance, but it was a clutch one.

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

Coming off a pair of winnable but ultimately lost games on the road, the Michigan Wolverines needed to get back on track in a big way in front of their home crowd.

Though it wasn’t a pretty performance, it was a clutch one — the Wolverines pulled out a 85-78 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats to right the ship.

Here’s how the game played out for Michigan:

First half

Michigan’s offense picked up where it left off in the Thursday loss to Iowa, making seven of the first 10 shots to take a double-digit lead early in the first half. In contrast, Northwestern’s shooting efforts were dismal to start the game — making just three of its first 11.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, their lead quickly evaporated in no small part due to a comedy of errors — turning the ball over seven times in nine possessions. The Wildcats took advantage of the shaky ball control by making six of their eight shots in a four-minute span, tying the game up just before the final five minutes and taking the lead outright with three minutes to go in the half.

Though Northwestern pushed the lead to as far as six points, Michigan staunched the bleeding a tad heading into the locker room — preventing the Wildcats from scoring on the final possession of the half to pull the lead back to two points.

Statistically, Dug McDaniel led the Wolverines’ scoring at halftime, notching 10 points on 43% total shooting. Hunter Dickinson was Michigan’s top rebounder at the half with four.

Second half

In a frustrating start to the second half, the Wolverines couldn’t seem to make a tie — much less a lead — stick for more than one possession. Though Michigan tied the game up once and outright led once in the first five minutes, both instances saw Northwestern quickly yank the lead right back in its favor.

After going on a 6-0 run midway through the half, the Wolverines seemed to finally find a lead that could stick. A costly shooting foul by Jett Howard beyond the arc got the Wildcats back within one, and a subsequent jumper by Northwestern guard Boo Buie put his team back in the lead. Instead of lying down, the Wolverines hit another gear — shooting 4-of-5 to take back the lead and push it to as much as nine points.

Though the Wildcats had their chances to get back into it, Michigan ultimately stayed consistent down the stretch and finished with a seven-point victory.

Statistically, Kobe Bufkin finished as the Wolverines’ scoring leader with 20 points, while Dickinson notched yet another double-double after recording a team-leading 13 rebounds.

What’s next?

The Wolverines are back on the road this week, as they travel to College Park in the second and final leg of this season’s series with the Maryland Terrapins. Tip-off is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. The game will be on ESPN.