Five Key Plays: Purdue 87, Michigan 70

Zach Shaw

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.”

  • Corperryale

    Watching the clips above, I notice that Rahk’s ability to finish through contact in a controlled manner and use his body to create space actually reminds me more of Trey Burke than Caris LeVert.

  • GTFOmycourt

    On the one hand, I enjoyed reading the quote from JB about MAAR having an “east coast” thing going on with his game. It is a fun quote. On the other hand, I think the quote is somewhat emblematic of a general under appreciation of MAAR by the fan base and maybe the program. MAAR does specific things–like taking it the basket–and finishing–that is elite. Remember when MAAR scored a layup on essentially a 1 versus 5 against Penn State? Not too many people in the country could do that regardless of whether or not they played ball in high school in the East. If he is able to build off of his god-given talents MAAR could be amazing. It is not an East Coast thing. It is a MAAR thing. I am nitpicking, I know, but to generalize and attribute his abilities to a region of the US to me is just a subtle sign, that generally speaking we might be, as a fan base, guilty of being a little too slow coming to terms with the idea that this kid has fantastic upside that is definitely **warranted more playing time** earlier in the season even if it meant cutting into Levert, Walton, Dawkins and Irvin’s time. I for one want MAAR on the court more even if Levert returns. I understand the issue of redundancy but I just think MAAR needs to be recognized as an important piece of the future of the team and treated as such.

  • Chezaroo

    M had 18 points in the paint. MAAR had 14 of them.

  • Wayman Britt

    Guys it’s all about consistency. Yes, MAAR had a great game, but can he do it night in and night out? Donnal looked great in a couple of games at the end of December, but can he do it every game, so far no. Naturally, you are going to have some off nights, but players with enough talent to play at the next level bring it every game.

    If UM wants to finish in the top four of the Big Ten, they need MAAR and everybody else not named Caris to play consistently good. Caris is already at that level.

    • GTFOmycourt

      I see your point but MAAR has been ***relatively*** consistent, I think. It would be interesting to see who everybody thinks of as the most consistent player. In my mind Caris and Duncan have the been the most consistent all around. Who is more consistent between Irvin, Walton, MAAR and Dawkins? In my opinion MAAR might be the most consistent defensively. Walton probably is the most consistent of that group offensively but it is a bit of a tossup in my mind between Irvin, Dawkins and MAAR in terms of offensive efficiency consistently. I would be curious to see if my intuition matches up with offensive statistics. MAAR seems to not make a lot mistakes and seems to score efficiently to me…

    • bobohle


    • Chillax

      MAAR doesn’t get the minutes he needs to be consistant, but I think we’ll see it now. I think Donnal has finally found his groove. And Caris sometimes tries to do too much….see SMU

  • Champswest

    Donnal fumbles the momentum away
    That seemed a little unfair. Especially to make it one of the 5 key plays.

    • David Remmler

      Yeah, it was blocked not misplayed or fumbled. A good defensive play and not Donnal’s fault, imo.

  • David Remmler

    Hard to reach any conclusions from this game with our best player out. I see only positives:

    1. MAAR is a legitimate scorer against any D and deserves more minutes.
    2. The team showed it could hold its own on the boards against a huge frontline. Loved Donnal’s effort although outmanned inside.
    3. We can be competitive against a top 5 team – we competed and were only 6 down with a few minutes left on the road without our best player.

    If we continue to play at this level, we are a tourney team. If we want to make a final Four run though (a long shot), we will need to be at full strength, hitting our outside shots and getting decent interior rebounding and defense.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    I know it wasn’t the cleanest game ever for him, but I am starting to feel like Donnal is “getting it” He is competing harder and made a couple threes. I would have loved for Dakich to not do that silly drive to the hoop (which got blocked, led to a run out, and Donnal got stuck with a foul (very minimal, if any contact). It was right after he made a three pointer.

    To me, it looks like he is starting to get comfortable. He will continue to do well. I can sense it.

  • gobluemd16

    Did MAAR get hand checked in all of his drives in clip 3 besides the first, or is that just me?