Michigan was able to win their 10th straight game to move to 16-4 on the year, while the Purdue Boilermakers dropped their third straight to fall to 13-8. The final score was 75-66, but the end result didn’t reflect Michigan’s second half dominance.
The Wolverines and their student section came into the game with the energy that comes from winning three straight big games. In case the crowd wasn’t loud enough, Michigan unveiled a yelling Nik Stauskas on the video board, replacing Tim Hardaway Jr’s signature pump-up yell.
The first five minutes went well for Michigan; as Derrick Walton Jr, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Caris LeVert all hit on their three point attempts.
From there, things started to unravel for the Wolverines. A cold spell coincided with a bout of turnovers. Michigan also allowed Purdue to grab a lot of offensive rebounds, failing to box out the Boilermakers.
Purdue went up for a brief, uneasy moment after a 11-0 run. John Beilein called a timeout, and the Wolverines recouped to go on a 13-4 run. The half would end with Michigan leading 37-29. Walton hit his second buzzer beater of the season, going coast to coast for a layup.
The problems at half were apparent. Michigan had eight turnovers, only three less than its season average per game. Purdue also had nine offensive rebounds that led to 10 points.
Michigan would come out firing in the second half, gradually increasing their biggest lead from 10 to 12. Purdue would eventually threaten and bring the game under 10, but the outcome wasn’t ever really in doubt. Michigan ended with 60.9% shooting for the game, and shot over 50% from behind the arc. Purdue didn’t have answer for the Wolverines curling off screens to hit elbow jumpers. Beilein was very happy with the team’s effort here, and especially Walton’s progression in this area. “These shots are important, these are shots #3 used to hit all the time for us last year.”
The momentum began to accumulate in the second half as Michigan began to pull away. The biggest moment for the Wolverines came after a Jon Horford fall-away in the post. The bucket capped a big run for Michigan, bringing the lead to 15 and forcing Purdue coach Matt Painter to call a timeout.
Nik Stauskas was once again the offensive catalyst for the Wolverines. He made half his shots en route to 15 points, while adding three blocks on the defensive side of the ball.
The player who had an all-around monster stat line was Caris LeVert. The sophomore grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds while adding 14 points, including a couple of impressive jump stops and ball fakes. Like Stauskas, he also contributed on the defensive end, with two block and three steals. “We see the home upsets in the Big Ten, Ohio State and Wisconsin losing at home, and we don’t want that to be us,” said LeVert.
The third major component of Michigan’s success was Derrick Walton Jr. Building off his clutch performance against Michigan State; the freshman point guard scored 14 points. Jordan Morgan was the recipient on a couple of his assists, stuffing home two dunks. Morgan continues to quietly contribute, adding 11 points and six rebounds. The two have continued to develop chemistry as Morgan’s minutes have increased. “I think it’s our guards having more trust in us,” said Jordan Morgan. Walton had a bit of a different take. “We’re both Detroit guys, so there was immediate chemistry. I just tell him to sprint the floor and I’ll hit him.”
It wasn’t the prettiest victory for the Wolverines, but the young team didn’t allow a post MSU letdown. The win is Wolverines tenth in a row, and the eighth straight in the Big Ten. However, it was a win. “There is no winning ugly as long as I’m here,” said John Beilein.
The Wolverines play Indiana Sunday in Bloomington. Assembly Hall is always a dangerous place to play, but Indiana is having an off year. They lost to Nebraska Thursday night, and have slipped to the lower tier of the Big Ten. Michigan will seek redemption after losing to Indiana twice last year.
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