Michigan basketball vs. Northwestern takeaways

Michigan basketball went into Evanston, Illinois on a two-game losing streak and the Wolverines badly needed to get back on track.

The maize and blue, 11-10 on the year, was in an unusual situation on Thursday. Michigan was an underdog against Northwestern. The Wildcats entered the ballgame sitting at 15-6 on the year, and many experts had Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament come March — with Michigan out.

Things started out dry for the Michigan offense against the Wildcats on Thursday night. The Wolverines led at halftime 26-25 but the maize and blue shot 9-for-31 from the field and 3-for-13 from 3 during the first 20 minutes of action.

The second half looked like a much improved and hungrier Michigan team. The Wolverines dominated the paint and played really solid defense against Northwestern. The maize and blue had role players contribute on Thursday and that combined with Hunter Dickinson down low proved to be too much for Northwestern. The Wolverines finally found their first quad-one win of the year.

Michigan defeated Northwestern for the second time this season after winning, 68-51 on Thursday.

Here are our takeaways.

Nice effort on both ends of the court

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For the majority of the season, Michigan either has good offense or good defense — never both. But on Thursday evening we finally got the pleasure of seeing a complete effort from the Wolverines basketball squad.

Defensively, the Wolverines held Northwestern in check. The Wildcats shot 38% from the field and 16% from 3. It wasn’t only because the Wildcats couldn’t make shots. No, Michigan played its tail off on defense. The usual mishaps didn’t happen on the defensive side of the ball and the young team looked more like a veteran squad.

Offensively, Michigan took quality shots. Nothing more and nothing less. The Wolverines fed the ball into the post to Hunter Dickinson and he made some great passes when he was doubled. Michigan never panicked when Northwestern changed its defense up and the Wolverines always responded when needed.

The Wolverines dominated the boards on Thursday and that made a huge difference. Out of the 41 rebounds Michigan had, 14 of those were offensive boards.

Role players stepped up

Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of Michigan basketball, you primarily think of two players: Hunter Dickinson and Jett Howard.

Howard really struggled against Northwestern scoring just six points. But Dickinson had a sound game scoring 19 while being doubled for most of the game.

But the key for Michigan on Thursday was Kobe Bufkin and the bench play.

Bufkin led the Wolverines by compiling his first double-double and flirted with the triple-double. He had 15 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. Bufkin was all over the court on Thursday and helped propel the Wolverines to the double-digit win.

The Wolverines bench scored 17 points and Baker dominated the scoring off the bench. He scored 14 points and hit three 3-pointers. Michigan had solid performances from Tarris Reed Jr., Jace Howard, and Yousef Khayat. The maize and blue bench haven’t lived up to the hype that it had at the beginning of the season, but maybe after having a great night Thursday, they can have an excellent finish.

Michigan needs to build off this momentum heading into the weekend

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Even after beating Northwestern on Thursday, Michigan has a ton of work left to do if it wants any shot of making the NCAA Tournament come March.

The good thing about playing in the Big Ten is the Wolverines will have plenty of opportunities to get big wins. The conference is full of possible quad-one wins and the maize and blue needs to capitalize when they get the chance.

Michigan has Ohio State coming up on Sunday and the Buckeyes are playing just as bad — if not worse — than the Wolverines as of late. The maize and blue need to keep this momentum and take down their rival come Sunday.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire