3 keys vs. Northwestern 

January, 11, 2012
The No. 14 Michigan basketball team hasn't lost on its home court so far this season. The Wolverines have picked up convincing wins over Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but now they turn their focus to Northwestern.

The Wildcats are 1-2 in league play but have a strong inside/outside combo in senior forward John Shurna and junior guard Drew Crawford. Northwestern hasn’t picked off any top 25 teams yet, but if Michigan takes this game too lightly, the Wildcats definitely have the potential to do so. If Michigan wants to remain perfect in Ann Arbor, here are three keys it needs to focus on.

1. Take advantage of the mismatches. The most glaring mismatch is between two freshman point guards: Michigan’s Trey Burke and Northwestern’s Dave Sobolewski. But Burke has the upper hand here. He’s coming off his best defensive performance (containing senior point guard Jordan Taylor). Sobolewski might have a 2-inch height advantage on Burke, but if Burke plays like he has been playing, he should be able to take Sobolewski off the dribble and continue his streak of non-freshman-like play. Another possible mismatch we could see (though less frequently) in the paint is redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan against Shurna. If/when Shurna goes inside or tries to stick with Morgan defensively, the Wolverines need to take advantage of that. 2. Continue to thrive on the energy of Crisler Arena. Home games have been getting more and more rowdy as the season goes on. The Wolverines need to learn how to draw on that energy like Indiana draws on the fans in Assembly Hall or how Wisconsin pulls from its crowds inside the Kohl Center. Michigan basketball is gaining recognition on campus and if the Wolverines can continue to impress inside Crisler and use their fans to help put away opponents, it’ll benefit Michigan down the road when it welcomes teams Michigan State and Ohio State to Ann Arbor.

3. Contain Shurna. He’s the Big Ten’s leading scorer right now (19 points per game) and works well in the Princeton offense the Wildcats run. Ohio State held Shurna to 11 by shadowing him the whole game and trying to take away as many quality opportunities as they could. When shots did come for Shurna, several were low-percentage opportunities (Shurna finished 5-for-18 from the floor, including 1-for-6 from behind the 3-point line). Michigan needs to stick with Shurna to make sure he doesn’t catch fire, because if he does, the Wolverines could find themselves dealing with a very talented shooter. Whether it’s senior guard Zack Novak or sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz, they need to be like Velcro to NU’s star.
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