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Posted on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

With an assist from Bo Schembechler, the Michigan basketball team grits out a win over Northwestern

By Nick Baumgardner


Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Michigan basketball team had to make several second-half adjustments to outlast Northwestern.

Melanie Maxwell |

With the Michigan football team watching the game from the stands Wednesday, Michigan basketball coach John Beilein borrowed a message from a former gridiron great to guide his team.

That man? Bo Schembechler.

With their captain on the bench, their shots falling flat and two possible overtime debacles looming, the Wolverines leaned heavily on two of Schembechler's more popular in-game words.

"Sudden change," Beilein said. "All of a sudden, things change.

"We adapted and played through it."

With an assist from former director of basketball operations Brian Townsend, a former Schembechler football player who once relayed the "sudden change" message to Beilein, the Wolverines received a lesson in adapt and advance Wednesday.

Michigan's 66-64 overtime home win over Northwestern wasn't pretty, but it was a victory. And, considering the circumstances, no one was willing to turn their nose at it afterward.

"We earned that win," Michigan senior captain Zack Novak said afterward.

The constant "sudden change" Beilein referred to began less than four minutes into the game, when Novak was whistled for his second foul, forcing him to the bench for the remainder of the first half.

Without their leader on the floor, the Wolverines struggled.

Michigan fell behind 8-0 early, managed to take a two-point lead midway through the frame thanks to 14 first-half points from Tim Hardaway Jr., but slipped again late, allowing Northwestern to close the half with a run and grab a seven-point lead at the break.

"It was frustrating," Novak said of his early foul trouble. "I was on the bench just trying to coach the guys up, yell out what they were running and try to keep everyone together from the sideline."

Novak returned in the second half, and his inspired play seemed to almost instantly spark the Wolverines.

After Stu Douglass poked a ball free near midcourt, Novak hustled to scoop it up, resulting in a breakout layup that capped an 8-0 run to tie the game at 44-44 with 11:33 to play.

Then, following a Northwestern timeout, Novak took a pass from Hardaway on the wing and sent home perhaps the loudest two-handed jam the Wolverines have seen all season.

The dunk gave Michigan its first lead of the half, proved Novak has plenty of burst in his step and sent the home crowd of 12,605 into a fever pitch.

"I've been waiting for him to unleash that," Douglass said of the dunk.

The home team had all the momentum, and Northwestern appeared rattled — but another quick timeout from Wildcat coach Bill Carmody and a built-in media timeout 16 seconds later effectively curbed the crowd noise and tempered the Wolverines' momentum.

Northwestern then scored the next six points, and went back up four.

Sudden change.

From there, the Wolverines went cold. Michigan missed eight consecutive 3-pointers during a stretch in the second half, an unusual stat for the normally solid shooting Wolverines.

So, with the shots not falling, the team went to the glass. Michigan racked up 17 offensive rebounds as a team, six coming in the final 7:20 of regulation.

The hard work eventually paid off, as Hardaway snapped the shooting drought with a game-tying triple late, eventually leading to overtime.

In the overtime, up two, Michigan was dealt another tough card to work with when Jordan Morgan was hit with a technical foul after wrestling under the basket with Northwestern guard Dave Sobolewski.

"(Morgan) feels real bad about that, he reacted poorly," Beilein said. "We'll deal with it in a separate way, but they're young kids.

"(But, again) sudden change."

Drew Crawford split the technical shots, and the Michigan defense forced a Sobolewski missed jumper on the ensuing possession, giving the Wolverines another victory in the sudden change department.

The final bout of sudden change came in the final moment, when Hardaway was whistled for fouling Alex Marcotullio on a 3-pointer with less than a second to play.

Faced with yet another unexpected road block, Michigan was bailed out by its home crowd as Crisler Center reached its loudest point prior to Marcotullio's first free throw, resulting in a miss. He made the second, missed the third. There was no putback.

Game over.

Survival at last.

"Just another lesson learned," Douglass said. "Another lesson in having to come together and keep fighting when stuff isn't going our way."

The lessons are about to get tougher and the bouts of sudden change will soon be more intense.

Hardaway and Trey Burke will have to recover physically from 45-minute performances Wednesday and the Wolverines will have to fight through some early-season road demons with four games away from Crisler Center in the next 16 days.

But, hey, winning in the Big Ten isn't easy.

Bo could tell you that much.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

Rocco...may I call you Rocco? LOL... You obviously have never played organized athletics...well, maybe at a house or intramural level. At the level these young men play, it requires whatever mental (and physical) effort to win. This was an excellent choice of inspiration for the moment...just my take. Second, is Rocco a screen name for the actual Roy Williams? or Bob Knight? or Dean Smith? Where do you get off by being so negative when this team is considered by most experts to be a Top 15 team nationally. Are they all wrong yet you are right? So far, this team that lacks talent and depth has secured a 14-3 record. Why such negativity? Give me 5 guys named Zack Novak and I will go out and beat your team of 5 Lebron James' anyday... Be a fan...rid yourself of the hate...

Nick Baumgardner

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 4:31 a.m.

Woo, Rushville ... Five Novaks against five LeBrons? That'd be interesting, eh? Though, regardless of the outcome, it's a safe bet the five Novaks wouldn't quit. Tough kid, no question about it. Nick


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

I'm sorry but it's pathetic that this team need a boost from a Michigan football legend. The team has no depth and is depending on a freshman in cruch time to pull them through. One ESPN commentator said that Michigan team can beat any Big10 team and lose to any. It's clear from watching Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana that these teams have superior players in most key positions. Beilein's team lacks talent and depth but is cohesive and feisty. These latter attributes can get you some wins but not enough to be top tier program. Beilein in his fifth year should have much better product on the floor so games against Northwestern at home don't come down to the wire and we don't need to invoke a Michigan football legend from the grave.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Rocco, play often thrives on motivation and whatever works is appropriate. Sometimes who wins depends on who wants it the most. I thought Northwestern, whatever their record is, played great. They had hot streaks of shooting. Every now and then a team has a game where literally everything they toss up there goes in. I think this was one of them. I think the way to measure a good coach is not what talent they collect, but what they do with it and Coach Beilein has done about as best anyone could with this team. I am not a fan of the "shoot as many 3s as possible and pass up open 2s" offense and I would like to see a bigger center who can defend, rebound and put offensive rebounds in the basket, but I like watching these guys play.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

As coach Beilein said, "This is not your grandfather's Northwestern" They are not the doormat that their name implies. With a #28 RPI ranking, they are a quality opponent.

Blue Marker

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

Wow, you must be a "glass is half empty" sort of guy. I agree Michigan is not yet a premier program in the B1G but they're a team on the rise. Furthermore, to use words from a legendary coach as inspiration is far from pathetic. Especially on a night where the football team is being honored. Michigan has gone from the basement of their conference to one of the better mid-level teams. With the class coming in they'll be a national contender next year. What did you expect of Coach B by now, a National Championship?

Blue Marker

Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

I'm sure Coach B would like Jordan to be the bigger person and walk away from what happened last night but I think it's reasonable to want to stand up for yourself after being dragged down to the floor. Sobolewski made a chump play and got away with it. And you have to love the officials taking a bunch of time to look at the video just to come back with the wrong call. It should have been a double tech IMHO. But a gritty win for Michigan nonetheless. Now the really tough part of the schedule. Go Blue!


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

No Lolly, they can't. I watched the game on TV and the announcers explained that. I think watching it was a good idea because they may decide how to proceed as in technical or ejection. Not saying it is appropriate but when they see something of a "reason" for a players faux pas, that can help with the decision. That said it must be drilled into players that they have to keep their heads and not give in to emotions. I really like Jordan Morgan's play and I get frustrated that he gets open a lot and does not get the ball. He opens up often on pick and rolls.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

Can they call a foul after the fact from a video, though? I didn't think that was in the rules.


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

Interesting article. Northwestern played us tough and Michigan hung in there with a tough hard fought win. That's worth a lot. I don't know how NW lost by 20 or more to other teams. Anyone else think Novak has a future in coaching?


Thu, Jan 12, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

I think both Novak and Douglas have coaching potential, but I have also heard that they have other career goals.