Evanston, IL – Riding a three-game win streak, the 11th- Ryan Arena in Evanston tonight.
Michigan, now tied with Ohio State for second place in the conference standings at 10-4 and trailing only Michigan State, toppled the Buckeyes at home on Saturday night in a 56-51 final. The victory was the fifth in the last seven decisions for Wolverines, the two setbacks coming against OSU and MSU both on the road.
As for the Wildcats, they enter the week tied with Iowa for seventh place in the Big Ten with a record of 6-8. Northwestern registered a 64-53 home win over Minnesota over the weekend to snap a two-game slide and avenge an ugly 75-52 loss to the Golden Gophers on the road less than a month earlier.
In the first meeting of the season last month, the Wolverines barely escaped overtime with a 66-64 win at home, which means the all-time series now favors Michigan by a count of 104-56.
Certainly it was a low-scoring game for the Wolverines, but if it meant beating Ohio State then surely the team would go for it as they led from start to finish on Saturday night. Michigan held OSU to 0-of-9 from three-point range in the first half and only 3-of-16 for the entire game, a mere 38.8 percent from the floor overall. Offensively, the Wolverines were paced by Trey Burke who stepped up with 17 points and five assists, followed by Tim Hardaway, Jr. with 13 points. Jordan Morgan registered a double-double for the hosts with 11 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, the team getting by with just four offensive rebounds and 3-of-13 shooting on the perimeter. Hardaway and Burke have been the key figures on offense for the Wolverines this season, putting up 14.3 and 14.1 ppg, respectively, although the former's mere 27.7 percent shooting behind the three-point line has been troubling, even though he made both of his long-distance attempts on Saturday night. Burke is responsible for 130 assists, twice the number of anyone else on the roster, although it is his defense and the defense of teammates that generally gains the most attention by holding the competition to just 60.1 ppg.
While it was the win over Minnesota that is ultimately the most important, it was also time on Saturday night for John Shurna to bask in the spotlight as he tallied 18 points in order to become the all-time leading scorer for the Wildcats. Shurna, who now has 1,902 points, used a three-pointer late in the matchup to surpass Billy McKinney (1974-77) and put himself all alone atop the record column. But Shurna, who finished with six rebounds, five assists, five blocked shots and three steals, was actually second on the team in scoring behind Dave Sobolewski who tallied 22, while Drew Crawford added 11 points for the team in the win. One of the top scorers in the Big Ten, Shurna is pouring in 20.2 ppg thanks in large part to his 43.2 percent accuracy behind the three-point line. But more than just a scorer, Shurna is also first on the squad with 5.6 rpg, 44 blocks and 33 steals, not to mention second with 68 assists, so there's nothing he wouldn't do if he thought it meant the Wildcats had a better shot at landing in the win column. Crawford is responsible for another 16.6 ppg and like Shurna is a sure-shot beyond the arc at 40.5 percent.