Michigan escaped West Lafayette with an overtime victory on Wednesday night to keep its outright Big Ten Title hopes alive and well.
The Wolverines were pummeled out of the gate, making just three of their first 17 shots from the field while Purdue made five of its first seven three-point attempts. The Wolverines trailed 27-8 just over 12 minutes into the first half and looked to be on the ropes.
Michigan outscored Purdue by 20 points over the next 33 minutes in a game that featured all of the drama, late game heroics and apparently randomness that we love to see in sports. But make no mistake about it, this game was about the inevitability of averages.
Michigan is the best shooting team in the Big Ten. Purdue is the third worst. Eventually, those simple facts caught up to the Boilermakers.
Purdue made just two more threes in the final 33 minutes of the game and the Wolverines made 24 of their final 48 shots with a 55.2 effective field goal percentage – .05 percent off of their Big Ten average. Purdue watched its shooting cool from a 88.4 effective field goal percentage in the first 12:15 to just 36% for the rest of the game.
Michigan forced overtime despite never leading in regulation and eventually Glenn Robinson III supplied the dagger with a buzzer beating bank shot.
Even Robinson’s game winner was enabled by the numbers catching up to the Boilermakers. Purdue entered Wednesday’s game as the worst free throw shooting team in the conference, but made its first 17 attempts. Kendall Stephens went to the line for No. 18, the front end of a one-and-one that could have given Purdue a three point lead, and left it short.
Michigan’s offense still managed 1.11 points per possession despite the dreadful start. The Wolverines scored .80 points per possession in the first half before exploding for 1.36 points per trip in the second half and overtime.
Michigan’s offensive game plan was to attack the rim, but it took a lot of resolve to stick to the plan. The Wolverines shot just 35% on twos in the first half and struggled to adjust to the physicality in the paint. But Michigan’s guards kept attacking, kept driving and eventually found results – mostly at the free throw line. Just 35% of the Wolverines’ field goal attempts were threes and eventually they were able to punish Purdue’s over-aggressive help defense at the rim. The Wolverines shot 35% on twos and struggled to get to the free throw line in the first half, but shot 60% on twos and got to the free throw line in the second. A.J. Hammons’s fifth foul was a big boost for the Wolverine attack as he had blocked three shots and altered many more.
Michigan still has a lot of work to do defensively. With 27 games in the book, it may be time to just accept that the Wolverines aren’t going to get many stops. Purdue shot the lights out early, before eventually cooling down, but was still getting open looks. Michigan struggled to stop the Boilermakers’ dribble penetration for much of the game and then in the second half, the Boilermakers overwhelmed Michigan on the offensive glass. Purdue rebounded 44 percent of its misses in the second half and overtime and scored 11 second chance points.
The final shot was a great play call, even if it looked a bit unconventional. That is a shot that Beilein wants with two or three seconds on the clock. It’s almost identical to the sideline out of bounds set that Michigan ran against Michigan State four years ago. Robinson was the best athlete on the floor and Purdue didn’t have a big man, why not throw him the ball 10 feet from the hoop? Perhaps the most underrated element of the play was Caris LeVert’s pass over the defense to the perfect spot where only Robinson could catch the ball.
It was definitely a lucky win, but every win counts the same. Despite having the youngest roster in the conference, Michigan has won four Big Ten road games by five or fewer points. The Wolverines are one game closer to their regular season goal: The Big Ten Championship. Next up is a home tilt with Minnesota, who is likely playing for its NCAA tournament life after a home upset of Iowa.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson answered the bell while playing in front of his dad. He scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 8 rebounds, three assists and one turnover. He missed his first jumper of the day badly, but from that point in he was locked in with the 17-footer. Robinson hit the game winner, but he also knocked down both ends of a one-and-one to tie the game in regulation. Robinson hasn’t made a three in the last three games, but is 18-of-25 inside the arc and has reached double figures in his last three games.
- Spike Albrecht: Spike rescued Michigan. He couldn’t hit a shot (1-of-5), but he just seemed to turn the game around. He did just about everything other than knock down a dagger three in overtime. Albrecht’s drawn charge against Ronnie Johnson was critical late, but he was also finally able to crack the Purdue defense in overtime and find Jordan Morgan for open dunks.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert played a great game despite struggling to finish inside. He finished with 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting with 4 assists to one turnover and seven rebounds (3 offensive). LeVert had a game-changing steal and euro-step layup late in regulation which gave Michigan an extra breath of life. I did cringe when he passed up an open three from the corner where he shoots 62%, but he played a solid game overall.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan put in one of his best games of the season: 13 points (6-8 shooting), nine rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes. Morgan played great defense on AJ Hammons and he had some very strong rebounds with the game on the line. Morgan only has three more Big Ten games left in his career and he’s played like a guy that wants a ring.
- Nik Stauskas: We’ve spent the 72 hours since the Michigan State game for applauding Stauskas for being aggressive no matter what. The result tonight was 15 points on 5-of-18 (0-4 3pt) shooting with 3 assists and two turnovers. Stauskas missed a lot of looks at the rim and could never find his long range shot (he did bang his wrist/elbow hard early). He’s a Player of the Year candidate in the conference, but he has to realize he’s not going to get every call just driving into the lane and flailing around when there’s a bit of contact.
- Zak Irvin: Shooters gotta shoot. Irvin was put in the game to shoot and that’s just what he did, scoring 8 points on 2-of-4 long distance shooting with an assist. Defensively, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Irvin struggled fighting through off ball Purdue screens and got schooled by Ronnie Johnson on the final Purdue offensive possession.
- Jon Horford: Horford missed his only shot and struggled on the glass when he was on the floor.
- Derrick Walton: Walton didn’t play a great game, but it was surprising that he barely played in the final 10 minutes of play. Walton scored 8 points on 2-of-6 shooting (all threes), with one assist to two turnovers.