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Michigan completes series sweep of Northwestern with 68-51 victory.

A slog of a first half gave way to some of the Wolverines’ best ball this season in the second.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off three losses in four games, the Michigan Wolverines needed a win, period, let alone their first Quad 1 win of the season. Fortunately for them, a series sweep-completing win at Northwestern on Thursday killed both birds with one stone.

Though it wasn’t without its fair share of frustrations — especially in the first half — Michigan took a surge of momentum to start the second and never looked back, beating the Wildcats 68-51.

Here’s how the game played out in Evanston:

First half

Depending on your preferences in how basketball should be played, the first half of Thursday’s contest was either a defensive battle for the ages or an utter train wreck for both teams.

Despite the Wolverines missing their first six shots, the Wildcats could only muster one single point in that timeframe, allowing Michigan to take an early lead off a pair of three-pointers by Jace Howard and Kobe Bufkin.

While subsequent cold streaks by the Wolverines allowed Northwestern to make it a back-and-forth affair, the Wildcats weren’t any better in their own attempts to find a rhythm, and Michigan was able to find just enough makes to take the lead and hold onto it — though not by much — through the final five minutes.

All told, both teams finished with just nine makes in the half, but an ever so slight 5-4 margin in made free throws gave the Wolverines a 26-25 lead at halftime. Statistically, Hunter Dickinson finished as Michigan’s scoring leader in the half with eight points.

Second half

Although Northwestern drew first blood in the second half, the early momentum was firmly in the Wolverines’ corner as an 18-2 run quickly lapped the Wildcats and led to their first double-digit lead of the game. While the first half’s shooting woes were virtually erased for Michigan, Northwestern struggled mightily after its initial scoring — missing 11-of-13 shots after making the first two.

Following the Wolverines’ dominant run, it was more a question of how much Michigan would win by rather than if Northwestern could find its way back into the game. Ultimately, the answer was 17 points, as the Wolverines held their lead for almost 19 minutes en route to a much needed victory.

Statistically, Dickinson held onto the scoring crown with 19 points scored, while Bufkin finished with a double-double after recording 15 points and 12 rebounds.

What’s next?

The Wolverines return to Crisler Center on Sunday, Feb. 5, in a rivalry match-up against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be Michigan’s first CBS game of the season.