Purdue took the floor in Ann Arbor and did just about everything correctly for 20 minutes. Matt Painter couldn’t have asked for much more from his young and inexperienced team playing on the road against the nation’s No. 2 – perhaps soon to be No. 1 – team. The Boilermakers shot the lights out from three point range, forced Michigan turnovers and appeared to be out hustling the more highly regarded Wolverines. In spite of playing to its potential, one could argue well beyond, Purdue led by just one point at the half time buzzer. That lead would never be enough and Boilermakers’ fate was sealed.
Inevitable regression toward the mean set in during the second half and the Wolverines steadily pulled away. The hot three point shooting evaporated (Purdue didn’t make a second half three) and the result was all but determined midway through the second half. Michigan didn’t play its best game and it didn’t play its worst. After 19 games it’s clear that an average performance from the Wolverines is more than enough to beat most opponents – especially within the friendly confines of Crisler Center.
Purdue deserves credit for slowing things down and limiting the game to just 58 possessions. Michigan did find a few easy buckets in transition but those were usually followed by a Matt Painter timeout and verbal sideline lashing. Michigan’s offense didn’t struggle by any means but still wasn’t its most efficient self. The Wolverines checked in at 1.17 points per possession which is just a few marks short of their league leading average Big Ten offensive output of 1.20 points per trip.
Michigan shot the ball well – 51% on twos and 44% on threes – and dominated the offensive glass to top things off. The Wolverines grabbed 40 percent of their missed shots and scored 13 second chance points. Michigan would be a pretty good team with its offensive weapons alone but it’s becoming clear that the Wolverines are a legitimate offensive rebounding team. With the number of shooters and finishers scattered across the floor, surrendering offensive rebounds to John Beilein’s team continues to be something like throwing gasoline on the fire.
There are probably a handful of things that you could nitpick from Michigan’s offensive performance. Maybe the uncharacteristic first half turnovers or an off shooting night by Trey Burke, but doing so would be a bit foolish. This was still a great offensive performance despite those nitpicks and the Wolverines per possession output was still worlds (by .07 points per trip) above the average output of the league’s second best offense.
For one of the first times this season, a Michigan win had more to do with defense than offense. The Wolverines’ first half defensive effort was nothing short of wretched. Purdue shot 54% on threes, rebounded 36 percent of its misses and seemed to score at will. Michigan addressed those issues and then some in the locker room at halftime and then managed to shut down the Boilermakers.
|Poss.||Michigan PPP||Purdue PPP|
Purdue is far from a great offensive team but it was nice to see the Wolverines make adjustments and lock down defensively.
The math gods certainly cackled at Purdue’s 0-of-9 second half three point shooting as it brought Boilermakers numbers to 7-of-21 from long range or 31.8% for the game – two tenths of a percentage away from their season average. Ken Pomeroy has clearly articulated the randomness of three point defense but there were still notable improvements to the Michigan defensive effort beyond the missed threes.
The most notable improvement was on the defensive glass where the Wolverines rebounded 76% of Purdue’s misses in the second compared to just 59% in the first. Michigan also snatched twice as many steals, not only forcing more turnovers but converting them into 11 second half points off of turnovers compared to just two in the first.
It might not have been as gaudy as some of Michigan’s early league wins but it was another solid and comfortable victory. A 15 point win in a 58 possession game is far from a shabby victory. Michigan’s first five Big Ten wins have come by an average margin of 18.8 points per game, a year ago when the Wolverines shared the conference crown just two of their 12 wins were by more than 12 points. Next up is a trip road trip to face a struggling Illinois squad that has lost five of its last eight games. Win on Sunday night and Michigan is likely to secure its first No. 1 ranking in over 20 years.
- Trey Burke: Burke started the game pretty hot but struggled to finish as the game wore on – he was still the catalyst of the Michigan offense tallying 15 points and eight assists to just one turnover. Despite struggling from the floor, Burke dictated the game and was clinical while distributing off of the pick and roll. He had a pair of great assists via the ball screen to ice the game away late, first a kick to Stauskas and then a great drop off to McGary.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway has never been one to hide his emotions and right now his confidence is oozing. On both ends of the floor Hardaway is playing with a purpose and it’s paying off. He knocked down his first two threes and never looked back finishing with 13 points on 5-of-9 (3-5 3pt) shooting. He was also a game changer on the defensive end of the floor as well, drawing two charges, blocking two shots and coming away with a steal.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas hit his first three from the corner and finished 2-of-4 from long range. I can live with his three turnovers. He still has a bit too much flair in his game but he’s usually trying to make the proper pass when he does turn it over. Michigan seemed to run a lot more curl action from the wing to Stauskas and he was effective, scoring and also throwing a great bounce pass to McGary who went up to get fouled.
- Glenn Robinson III: 12 points and nine rebounds on 4-of-6 (2-3 3pt) shooting with an assist is about as efficient of a night as you can draw up. Robinson did a bit of everything, dominating the glass, throwing down a thunderous dunk in the first half and hitting a pair of backbreaking threes in the second. It’s also easy to be efficient when you can score like this:
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan only played 14 minutes (to McGary’s 21) but was still productive on the court, scoring six points (on 3-of-6 fg) and grabbing five rebounds. He missed a pair of easy looks with his back to the basket (not doing much to disprove the theory that post touches don’t help the offense) but did have a nice drive on Hammons and a strong tap in.
- Mitch McGary: One way or another, McGary is going to bring energy to the game. There seem to be too many “McGary plays” to count on any given night. Here are a few that stood out tonight:
- Rebounding a missed U-M free throw (even if he missed the put back).
- Getting blocked twice on the offensive end before running down and taking a charge on the defensive end of the floor.
- Tipping away a steal at midcourt and drawing a foul before waving his arms and firing up the crowd.
- Sure there’s still room to refine his game (across the board) but right now he seems to provide a spark whenever he steps on the floor. Plays like his drive from the perimeter against AJ Hammons also remind us that there’s still a whole level of his game he’s yet to tap into.
- Jon Horford: It’s great to see Horford back on the floor and he was solid in his eight minutes, grabbing three rebounds and scoring a basket. He still looks like a guy still ramping back up to speed but he’s a very solid third big.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert’s night was a mixed bag as he connected on a pretty floater in the lane early but missed a similar shot in the second half. He looked just a bit hesitant catching the ball on the perimeter a couple of times leading to a turnover and a couple missed opportunities.
- Spike Albrecht: Similar to LeVert, Albrecht had a quiet night with a missed shot, assist and a turnover on a charge after over penetrating.