Michigan will play for a share of the Big Ten Championship on Sunday and Trey Burke wouldn’t have it any other way.
Trailing Purdue by 12 points with 12 minutes to play, it appeared that Michigan’s regular season dreams had been dashed once and for all. The Boilermakers were controlling the game, stymieing Michigan’s patented ball screen offense, and looking to close their rebuilding season on a high note.
Burke had just five points and appeared frustrated as he sat on the bench while Purdue took its largest lead of the game. Then Burke returned to the floor and for the second time in as many games simply willed the Wolverines to victory.
It started with a three pointer off of the dribble and a jump shot in the lane but that was only the beginning. Burke unleashed his full repertoire of offensive moves – dishes for open threes, drop off passes, mid-range jumpers in transition, and everything in between – over the game’s final 11 minutes. When the smoke cleared, Michigan’s point guard had facilitated a 40-23 run and allowed Michigan to escape with a coveted road victory.
Four Factors: Michigan 80, Purdue 75
Having (arguably) the best player in the country is a great luxury but it masks a lot of flaws. Michigan’s defense was still bad and for long stretches of the game its offense wasn’t much better. The Wolverines won thanks to Burke’s heroic contributions and timely production from Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. down the stretch but this wasn’t a great performance.
Michigan’s offense scored 1.16 points per possession for the game but that was due to nearly flawless play down the stretch. Michigan scored 40 points in its final 21 offensive possessions – 1.90 points per trip. The Wolverines scored on an extremely impressive 18 of those final 21 trips down the court. As perfect as the Michigan offense was down the stretch, that also means Michigan also only scored 40 points in the game’s first 48 possessions – .83 points per trip.
The offensive performance in the first half was marred by dreadful finishing around the basket. Michigan missed at least 10 opportunities at the rim and shot just 35% on twos in the first half – a far cry from its Big Ten leading 53% two point shooting. The Wolverines corrected those woes in the second, finishing an impressive 60 percent of their twos. Michigan survived the early shooting woes because it got to the free throw line often (29 FTA to 59 FGA) and valued the basketball (7% turnover rate). The Wolverines’ productive offensive rebounding from earlier this season has all but disappeared lately and for the seventh time in nine games, Michigan rebounded fewer than 30% of its misses.
That perfect offense down the stretch also disguised the fact that Michigan had no one that was capable of staying in front of Terone Johnson, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Michigan’s defense surrendered over a point per possession – 1.09 points per trip – for the sixth time in its last nine Big Ten games. Purdue controlled the offensive glass, rebounding 38% of its misses for 12 second chance points.The Boilermakers turned the ball over six times in their first 17 offensive possessions and managed just nine points over that stretch. But once Purdue cut back on turnovers, just seven over the final 52 possessions of play, its offense began to flow. The Boilermakers scored 68 points on their final 52 possessions – 1.31 points per trip.
It doesn’t look like Michigan is playing Big Ten Championship quality basketball but for the second consecutive year the Wolverines enter the final Sunday of league play with a chance. This time around Michigan controls its own destiny, beat Indiana at home and share the crown.
- Trey Burke: Burke looked well on his way to his first sub-15-point performance of Big Ten play. He missed some shots he usually makes, took two or three very poor shots and had just five points. His performance in the final 11 minutes was every bit of what you’d expect from a player of the year candidate. Michigan was dead in the water and Burke simply carried Michigan to the win. Burke’s averages in Big Ten games are now 20.2 points and 6.6 assists with a 3.5 A:T ratio. All are league leading and at this point it’s tough to make an argument for a different player of the year candidate.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas played probably his best offensive game since January. He attacked the basket (7-8 FT) but also knocked down two critical threes during Michigan’s comeback. His help defense still leaves something to be desired, at one point he was pulled from the game early in the second half because he was so late on a rotation, but he did a good job of chasing DJ Byrd (1-7 fg) through screens and around the perimeter.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway scored 11 first half points and made a number of strong offensive plays from a great first half take in transition to a critical three cold off of the bench in the final minutes. Defensively, he seemed to struggle and was late to a number of rotations and close outs during Purdue’s first half run.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson scored six points (2-7 fg) and grabbed seven rebounds with one assist in 35 minutes. He’s lacking sorely in confidence with his jumpshot and there are many times where it seems that he’s unable to corral loose balls one would expect. For what could be the first time this season, Michigan ran a high ball screen with Robinson – as the ball handler – and he scored on a nice drive to the basket. Robinson has faced a lot of mismatches at the four position this year but Rapheal Davis – a 6-foot-5 freshman - shouldn’t be the kind of player that goes for 15 points and nine rebounds against Robinson.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan’s only miss from the field was a layup attempt where he seemed to get flustered by the presence of 6-foot Ronnie Johnson. That’s definitely one he’ll want back. Although he struggled offensively, it continues to be more reassuring to watch Michigan play defense with Morgan on the floor compared to Michigan’s other bigs.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht gave Michigan quality minutes off of the bench, getting a layup in transition, handing out an assist and grabbing a steal in his 12 minutes of playing time. He’s very much a “singles hitter” as John Beilein would describe him but he played well when Michigan needed him off the bench with Hardaway sidelined with fouls.
- Mitch McGary: McGary is Michigan’s most versatile offensive big man and finished with six points on 3-of-4 shooting but he’s struggling on the glass (0 rebounds), with turnovers (2). McGary struggled defending the ball screen in the first half and still has the tendency to take himself out of plays defensively – continually going for blocks and losing position for rebounds.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert seems to alternate between looking overwhelmed and looking great. Today, he struggled. He missed a three and forced a tough shot in the lane, finishing 0-of-2 but did hand out two assists and grab two boards.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich checked into the game and buried a three with a foul. He missed the free throw and was beaten defensively on the other end but that was still a big play to help fight some of the Purdue momentum.
- Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt missed a bunny and had two fouls in three minutes of play in the first half. He did have a nice deflection on an entry pass to grab a steal and looked okay in his short stint.
- Jon Horford: Horford was the fourth big in the first half, taking the floor after Max Bielfeldt and did not play in the second.