NU takes down No. 4 Michigan

By Maria Heim

The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines came to Evanston on Sunday and handed the ‘Cats their first top-five win in six years — after two overtime periods, Northwestern came out on top, 71-69.

In Coach McKeown’s words: “The last couple of years, these games [against Michigan] have been just incredible.” 

Coming home from a 74-68 loss to Minnesota on Friday, Northwestern moved on from the mistakes made in Minneapolis. First-year Jillian Brown led the Minnesota game scoring 12 points — but this was only a warm-up for Sunday’s game against Michigan. At home, Brown scored the most points for the ‘Cats, racking in 18 total, her career-high.

Starting the game off, Brown set the standard with the first points for Northwestern. Early on, the ‘Cats defense put up a fight against Michigan’s strong offense, especially against Naz Hillmon, who has recorded 10 double-doubles so far this season. With less than 4.9 seconds to go in the first, Kaylah Rainey charged down the court with a layup, giving Northwestern the advantage heading into the second quarter.

The second period challenged the Wildcat defense further as Michigan began heating up. Sunday’s game was intensely physical, especially in this quarter, beginning with a personal foul on Laya Hartman and ending with a foul on Courtney Shaw. Northwestern also showed off its strength on offense. Almost every player touched the ball before Shaw scored a layup in the last minute of the quarter. But, at the half, Michigan led 48-43.

Hartman led the ‘Cats in the third, scoring five points in just 40 seconds. The energy on both sides of the ball remained focused and well-distributed. However, Michigan ended this quarter on top as Northwestern followed in a five-point deficit. 

In the fourth period, Jillian Brown was all over the court with three steals and six points for Northwestern. Two of those points came from potentially one of the biggest free throws of her young career in the last 30 seconds of the game. However, Michigan’s Danielle Rauch responded with two points from free throws of her own, tying up the game 58-58, sending the game to overtime.

Lauryn Satterwhite scored the first points for Northwestern in OT with a monster three-pointer. But right after that, Michigan’s Maddie Nolan mirrored it with a three-pointer of her own. During this five-minute period, there were many tense moments. Michigan knocked down Burton a few times, but her free-throws weren’t enough to catch a lead. Northwestern and Michigan were now tied 63-63.

Free-throw precision was the key to winning this game in the second OT. Burton made one free throw early and then another later. For the Wolverines, Hillmon made both of her shots, and Kiser made hers as well. However, it all came down to an Amy Dilks personal foul on Burton. She made both free throws to win the game for Northwestern 71-69. 

“It takes a lot of heart to beat a team like that,” Burton said. “Today everybody was just on in a different way.”

The last top-five team Northwestern beat was Ohio State in 2016. The ‘Cats now travel to face another top-five opponent, No. 5 Indiana, in Bloomington Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. Eric Rynston-Lobel and John Volk will be on the call on Mixlr.