Northwestern closed a program-first stretch of three straight games against top-10 foes with a 1-2 record after Sunday’s 80-60 loss at Purdue.

While the Wildcats’ visit to Michigan on Wednesday officially pits two unranked teams, the Wolverines are starting to fancy themselves a budding Big Ten Conference title contender following convincing wins against Maryland and at Indiana in the past week.

“I think this is starting to become the Michigan that everybody ranked in the top 10 and chose to win the Big Ten in the preseason,” the Wolverines’ Hunter Dickinson said. “I think this is the team that everybody expected when the season started.

“I mean, we’re young, so we made young mistakes early on in the season. We had a couple hiccups. But I think now we’re starting to finally play the basketball that coach (Juwan) Howard is instilling in us each and every day in practice.”

Michigan (9-7, 3-3 Big Ten) has returned to .500 in conference play behind solid perimeter shooting.

The Wolverines finished 11 of 17 (64.7 percent) from 3-point range at Indiana on Sunday en route to handing the Hoosiers their first home loss this season.

Dickinson tied a career best with three 3-pointers and scored 25 points while freshman Caleb Houstan established career highs in 3-pointers (five) and points (19).

Houstan is shooting 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) from 3-point range and 13 of 19 (68.4 percent) overall in the past two games.

“It always feels good to make shots,” Houstan said. “I think I’m in a really good place right now.”

Northwestern (9-8, 2-6) was limited to a season-low 21 rebounds on Sunday, struggling against the formidable frontcourt of the No. 4 Boilermakers, who were without top scorer Jaden Ivey due to injury.

After scrapping through much of the early conference schedule, the Wildcats would up with their largest loss of the season at Purdue.

“We fought really hard,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “Every time they tried to get away from us, we made a push.”

Boo Buie paced the Wildcats with 17 points but teammates Pete Nance and Chase Audige battled foul trouble.

Northwestern has lost six of seven since a three-game winning streak to close out 2021.

–Field Level Media