Photo Credit: AnnArbor.com & AP
Things are never as good or bad as they seem. It’s a simple proverb but it couldn’t be more true. Michigan’s 10-2 record caused optimism to boil over while masking deficiencies – things might not have been quite as rosy as they appeared. The ten minutes or so of this one were one of those times where it didn’t look like things could get much worse. Luckily no matter how frustrating a loss feels at the time, it still just counts as a single loss.
For the first 10 minutes of the game it appeared that Michigan didn’t stand a chance. Purdue opened the game with a 19-3 run and Michigan looked relatively helpless on both ends. The Wolverines answered with a 19-4 run of their own, pulling themselves right back into the game and took the lead with 1:20 remaining. The final four possessions of the half might have been the most costly stretch of the game as Purdue closed the half on a 5-0 run. It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off in the second half.
You could probably count the number of stops that Michigan’s defense made in the second half on one hand. Purdue, a team that’s been relatively pedestrian offensively this season, surgically dismantled the Michigan defense with ease. The Boilermakers scored 1.61 points per possession in the second half thanks to a 73% effective field goal percentage and a 3% turnover rate (1 TO). It was probably as close to a perfect offensive half as you will see during this Big Ten season.
It wasn’t just the “big two” of E’Twaun Moore, 21 points on 8 of 16 (3-5 3pt) shooting and 9 rebounds, and JaJuan Johnson, 22 points on 6 of 16 shooting (10-10 FT) and 8 rebounds, that killed Michigan. Ryne Smith posted a career night going 6 of 7 (5-6 3pt) from the field and netting 17 points. Michigan left Smith open time and time again and he made them pay every time. Freshman Terone Johnson has struggled this year but he had arguably his best game of the season going 4 of 6 from the field for 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Beating Purdue is tough when Johnson and Moore score their points, it’s almost impossible when they get significant help.
Michigan struggled with Purdue’s pressure defense as they turned it over on 22% of their possessions. More costly than the turnovers was the fact that Michigan was unable to get into their offensive sets on several possessions resulting in poor desperation shot attempts. Michigan actually shot a very good 39.5% from three point range but they were unable to score inside the arc, shooting just 37.5% on twos. JaJuan Johnson was a presence defensively in the paint as he blocked three shots and affected several others.
We know this team is young – the seventh youngest in Division I – and this was quite clearly a “welcome to the big leagues” moment. Purdue was more talented, more experienced, and they made Michigan pay. Still, getting blown out at home is painful and disheartening, especially the way that Michigan seemed to roll over down the stretch. In the grand scheme of things, a loss to Purdue, the #11 team in the country, isn’t nearly as costly as losing more winnable games versus teams in the lower half of the league. The next question is how will Michigan respond. Talor Battle makes Penn State a team that can beat just about anyone on any given night, but Penn State is a winnable game.
Photo Credit: MGoBlue
- Darius Morris: Morris didn’t start the game due to disciplinary reasons and didn’t really make up for it with his play. Darius was dreadful shooting the ball, 3 of 14 (1-5 3pt), in a game where Michigan really needed his offensive production. He did have 6 assists to 1 turnover but I am a bit skeptical with the turnover number. Morris threw a number of passes that probably didn’t give his teammates the best chance to make a play which led to turnovers.
- Stu Douglass: Douglass shot Michigan back into the game during the first half and finished the game as Michigan’s most productive scorer: 15 points on 6 of 10 (3-6 3pt) shooting with a couple blocks and two turnovers. Stu isn’t a point guard, and needs to continue being more aggressive with the ball in his hands, but his offensive game continues to improve.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway was the most noticeably rattled of any Michigan player. He dropped a pair of passes that would have resulted in layups, came out in the wrong defensive set once, and just seemed generally shaky. To his credit he did a good job on the defensive glass and played some good on ball defense for stretches.
- Jordan Morgan: For stretches he shows flashes offensively – most notably taking it at JaJuan Johnson a few times — but he lacks the athleticism to make a difference defensively around the rim. There seemed to be several times when Morgan was late providing help defense or was just unable to influence a shot attempt in the lane. Morgan also tagged with 5 turnovers but I think several of these were off the ball fouls or illegal screens, I’d have to double check.
- Jon Horford: Similar to Morgan, he continues to show flashes but obviously isn’t ready to deal with a player of JaJuan Johnson’s caliber in the post. Judging by the way Michigan has played under John Beilein, I would bet that the first thing listed in the game plan for dealing with JaJuan Johnson would be don’t allow him to get to the free throw line and force him to make the tough shot – that didn’t happen. Also, the three point attempts need to stop until he proves that he can make them.
- Zack Novak: Novak does a lot for this team but he just hasn’t been able to find his offensive game. Novak was just 25% from the field again today with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, and one of the most ridiculous looking blocks I’ve ever seen. Obviously Novak plays significant minutes and Michigan needs to figure out a way to get more out of him offensively.
- Evan Smotrycz: He can shoot it – 39% from three on the year – but he needs to figure out more ways to influence the game. Smotrycz looked very tentative with his handle on the perimeter which forced him to start playing minutes at the five rather than the four. 0 rebounds and 5 fouls in 15 minutes are both troubling numbers.
- Matt Vogrich: He didn’t provide a spark scoring the ball but he did grab two rebounds, hand out an assist, and pick up a block in 18 minutes. Michigan needs Vogrich to get open three point looks when he’s in the game and today he couldn’t find them.