WEST LAFAYETTE — Another post-heavy ranked team, another double-digit loss for the Michigan basketball team.
Aside from sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s 25 points, the Wolverines’ trip to No. 20 Purdue left little to be desired. Even without leading scorer Caris LeVert, Michigan hung around for most of the game, but eventually faltered, 87-70.
The Wolverines have a few days off before taking on No. 3 Maryland. While they do, here are our Five Key Plays from Thursday.
1) Big swing loses early lead
Though the Boilermakers eventually exploded for 87 points, they started out cold. Through 12 minutes, Purdue was just 5-of-20 from the field, and Michigan had a four-point lead and looked every bit capable of an upset.
“I was so proud of the way our guys played defense,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We were all over the place, we had the right “quick man” is what we call it when you can get to shooters, get the ball off somebody — we made it tough for them.”
But perhaps in foreshadowing what was to come later in the game, the Boilermakers ended the Wolverines’ run with a block, then an easy drive to the basket by Raphael Davis. Within moments, Purdue had retaken the lead, and that was only the beginning.
2) Late Purdue run gives them advantage at half
Thanks to strong first-half play by Abdur-Rahkman and redshirt sophomore forward Duncan Robinson (the two combined for 18 first-half points), Michigan was still in control in the final moments of the first half. But a 12-0 Boilermaker run changed that, and gave Purdue a lead it would not relinquish.
Using its superior size down low, and a surprisingly inspired effort from the perimeter, the Boilermakers made 9-of-12 shots in the 6:42 stretch, quickly humbling the Wolverines.
“Post defense is something you try and work at,” Beilein said. “Then you play the best in the country at post offense, and it’s an eye-opener.”
3) Abdur-Rahkman puts on an “East Coast” show
Bright spots for Michigan were few and far between Thursday night, and Abdur-Rahkman may well have been all of them.
The sophomore set a new career-high with 25 points, and looked like the star of the game in his 15-point second half. Using a strong dribble-drive, unwavering confidence and floating layup after floating layup, the 6-foot-4 guard countered Purdues length with buckets.
“He’s got what I call an East Coast type of thing where he can get buckets in the wind, in the rain, outdoors, indoors, crooked rims, everything,” Beilein said. “He just can find ways to score, and he did that today.
“It’s really a positive sign for us to get that type of game out of him.”
4) Donnal fumbles the momentum away
The second half saw much-improved play from the Wolverines’ big men, and Michigan had pulled back to within six with just over eight and a half minutes to go.
But when a Donnal misplayed layup turned into a 3-pointer on the other end, the Boilermakers were back off to the races. And with a full crowd behind it, the Wolverines lost some desperately-needed momentum.
“They’re a little deeper than we are right now given our roster situation,” Beilein said. “They’re a little bit more veteran in some areas, and they’re just better defensively than us, there’s no question about that.”
This sort of five-point swing seemed to happen far too often in the loss at Purdue. The Boilermakers did a great job of making Michigan pay for its mistakes on the offensive end with quick strikes in the other direction.
5) One last dagger
After Purdue’s rocky start, the story of the game was the Boilermakers pulling away, only for Michigan to come back each time. With six minutes to go, it was still a six-point game.
But whether the Wolverines ran out of gas, or if Purdue found a reserve tank for itself, the back-and-forth battle ended with a triumphant 12-0 run by the Boilermakers. Beilein was proud of the first 34 minutes of the game, but saw a different Michigan team in the end.
“We were getting tough baskets, they were getting easy baskets,” Beilein said. “Pretty soon, they’re going to start pulling away at that rate.
“I liked the way we competed. For the first 34 minutes, I think we really competed against a really good team. I mean that team’s terrific — throw that Iowa game away.”