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Northwestern's Law to test No. 2 Michigan's defense
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Latest Line: Northwestern +12 O/U: 129.5
 
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This much is known about Northwestern forward Vic Law: He's going to shoot. The Wildcats' leading scorer has to shoot for his team to win.

And if Northwestern is going to pull off a huge upset Sunday night when it visits No. 2 Michigan for a Big Ten Conference matchup, Law will have to do more than shoot. He'll have to score like he did last month when the Wildcats nearly stunned the unbeaten Wolverines.

Law finished with 19 points on Dec. 4 in Evanston, Ill., where Northwestern (10-6, 1-4) led with less than three minutes remaining before Michigan fought back for a 62-60 win.

"He's going to shoot the ball," Wildcats coach Chris Collins said of Law, who's averaging 17.3 points on 43.2 percent shooting. "He's been a terrific shooter for us; he's a very good player. Some nights you make them, and some nights they just don't go in.

"I want him to be aggressive, to take his shots. As long as we take good ones, he knows he's got the green light to take as many that are there."

Finding good shots has been a real chore for the Wolverines' opponents. Much has been made of the teachings of assistant coach Luke Yaklich, whose arrival from Illinois State two years ago sparked a defensive revival.

Head coach John Beilein has given Yaklich control of the defense. Michigan (16-0, 5-0) has jumped multiple levels when it doesn't have the ball. Its priorities are preventing clean 3-point looks and layups or dunks.

After allowing opponents to make just 42.6 percent of their field goals last season, when it made the national championship game before falling to Villanova, the Wolverines have been even stingier. Teams are canning only 39.5 percent from the floor and 30.6 percent from the 3-point line.

Fifteen of their 16 opponents have scored beneath their season average.

"Part of defense is really simplifying things so your guys know what to do," Yaklich said to mlive.com.

With Yaklich's defense complementing Beilein's balanced, mistake-free offense, Michigan might be headed for the first weekend in April again. Seven players average between 7.7 and 15.9 points per game, led by freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who was recently placed on the 25-man Wooden Award midseason watch list.

The 6-foot-7 Brazdeikis lit up Northwestern for a game-high 23 in the teams' first meeting, although it was Jordan Poole who supplied the winning bucket on a driving dunk with 2:09 left.

The Wildcats had three possessions after Poole's jam. Typically, the UM defense delivered. The Wolverines forced an offensive foul from Ryan Taylor with 1:53 left, then induced a pair of 3-point misses from Taylor around Law's missed layup to secure their closest win of the season.

To hear Beilein talk, his team still has growing to do. A loss feels inevitable in a Big Ten that possesses three other top 25 teams and as many as nine other NCAA Tournament teams.

"I think we're still growing," he said to mlive.com. "We're going to have peaks and valleys coming up. And how we handle those will be important."

If Law is making shots in the rematch, Beilein might get an early glimpse of how Michigan handles a valley.

--Field Level Media