The Michigan Wolverines (19-7, 11-3) take on the Purdue Boilermakers (15-12, 5-9) tonight at Mackey Arena. Tip is scheduled for 7pm and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. While the Wolverines are coming off of a huge win against rival Michigan State that has put them in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten race, Purdue has lost 7 of their last 9 games and are currently sitting tied for 8th in the league.
While Purdue does have the benefit of playing at home, and only 3 of their 12 losses have come on their home court, it would be a surprise to see the Wolverines go down tonight. The last time these two teams met, Michigan won 75-66 despite having an uncharacteristically high 16 turnovers in the game. Let’s look at the keys to the game for each team.
Try to eliminate one of Stauskas or LeVert. This obviously easier said than done, and both of these guys went off against a much better Michigan State team last Sunday. Against Purdue the first time around, Stauskas put up 16 while LeVert had 14. Pretty balanced. It’ll be important for Purdue to try to shut down one of these guys to put the pressure on the other.
Create turnovers. As I mentioned earlier, Michigan turned the ball over 16 times against Purdue in the season’s first matchup between these two teams, much higher than their season average. This will be imperative for Purdue to stay in the game. While Michigan is generally very good at being smart with the basketball, things tend to snowball a bit at times when a couple bad plays in a row occur.
Feed Hammons early and often. The big man put up 16 points and had 8 boards to go with it. While the duo of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford has grown on me, neither of these two are anything more than solid when they are playing their best. If Hammons can get going like he did in the first matchup, things will open up for Purdue offensively.
Create 3-point shots. Against Purdue in the first game, Michigan shot 13 three-pointers, and made 7 of them! Michigan has a ton of guys that can catch fire and fill it up from deep, they just have to get open and pull the trigger when they have their opportunity.
Offensive rebounding. In the first matchup, Purdue had 16 offensive rebounds compared to just 5 for the Wolverines. That will kill you almost every time. Morgan and Horford are going to have to do a better job of limiting Purdue’s second chance opportunities. If Michigan can limit Purdue to one-and-done offensive trips consistently, they will be putting themselves in a pretty good position to win the game.
Lastly, protect the basketball. 16 turnovers is way too many, and that’s how teams with less talent can stay in the game against teams with greater talent. If Michigan can be the ones creating turnovers instead of giving them up, it’ll be hard for Purdue to hang with the Wolverines.
Purdue is outmatched in this game, plain and simple. The Wolverines know that if they take care of business in this last stretch of the season that the Big Ten is theirs. It would take quite a letdown for Michigan to drop this game, and I really don’t see that happening. Purdue stays close for about 15 minutes or so, and then Michigan turns it on. With a win tonight, Michigan basketball will be on it’s way to a Big Ten title. Michigan 83 Purdue 65
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