Hoisting 38 three-point shots on the road isn’t necessarily the best recipe for success, especially in the Big Ten, where there are no gimmes away from home. But for Michigan, a team that has struggled on the road much of the season, 14 of their 38 three-point attempts found net Tuesday night and that was enough for a, 67-55, overtime win at Northwestern.
Once again, super frosh Trey Burke led the way for the Wolverines, scoring 19 points and grabbing six rebounds. It was Burke’s quickness and court vision that frustrated NU’s 1-3-1 zone throughout regulation time, and it was Burke’s senior-like composure that KO’d the Wildcats in overtime.
Burke buried a triple to give the Wolverines a three-point lead early in the extra period. Zack Novak hit a big three of his own less than a minute later, his only made field goal all night. Fellow Senior Stu Douglass secured the win on the Wolverines’ next possession with, what else, a three. Douglass’s dagger put the Maize and Blue up nine.
This win won’t do much for the Wolverines in terms of seeding in the NCAA Tournament, but John Beilein’s squad proved something Tuesday night at Welsh-Ryan. This team is finally learning how to play with composure on the road.
For most of the season, Michigan had struggled against inferior talent on the road—see their 12-point loss at Virginia (Nov. 29), or their 16-point loss at Iowa (Jan. 14), or their 2-point loss at Arkansas. But since falling to the Razorbacks more than a month ago, the Wolverines have only dropped two away from home—at Ohio State and at Michigan.
Both the Buckeyes and Spartans are virtually unbeatable at home, so there’s no crime in losing those games. But the Wolverines have now beaten Purdue (Jan. 24) and the Wildcats on the road, two teams with NCAA Tournament talent.
Those two wins aren’t as impressive as, say, Michigan’s home win against Ohio State Saturday, but they are important nonetheless. Had the Wolverines played in West Lafayette or in Evanston earlier in the season, they probably would have lost.
But the Maize and Blue now appear to have nixed those road issues from earlier in the year. And the good thing for Wolverines fans is that this team is learning to win away from home at just the right time.
With the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament approaching, Michigan will have to keep proving it can win away from Crisler Arena. Getting the win at Welsh-Ryan was a good sign, but the Wolverines will face much tougher challenges in March.
Chris Johnson is a sports writer for The Daily Northwestern. He is also the Michigan beat writer for bigtenorbust.com. Follow him @chrisdjohnsonn. contact: email@example.comFollow paulmbanks