“If what we’re going through at this point spearheads a run and helps us take the next step, then I’m all for it. I’m more so excited, I think it makes a better story.”

That was Derrick Walton three weeks ago in the Crisler Center media room. Michigan had just lost a deflating game to Ohio State at home, but he stood there answering question after question. He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself about missing a critical late shot or about Michigan’s 4-6 Big Ten record, he was oddly confident.

Since then, Michigan is playing some of the best basketball in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have won 5 of their last 6 games including victories over Purdue, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana. Walton has been in the middle of every win, writing the end of his Michigan story on his terms.

The Wolverines won another marquee game and, as they’ve made a habit of, the game was almost on ice by halftime. Purdue made a late run to cut the lead to 6, but Michigan led wire-to-wire with a lead that ballooned to 22 points in the second half. And this was against the Big Ten’s best team and best defense.

Moritz Wagner dazzled early on, scoring 20 points in the first half by himself before Purdue could pass that mark as a team. He scored on the opening possession and it was clear that his eyes lit up at the opportunity to attack National Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan.

Swanigan is bigger and stronger, but Wagner was quicker and could shoot. He took advantage with just about every weapon in his arsenal and finished with 22 first half points on 12 shot attempts including four triples.

This was Purdue’s worst defensive performance in over two years, dating back to when the 2015 Wisconsin Badgers steamrolled them in the Big Ten Tournament. If you recall, that Wisconsin team was caught up in a run that wouldn’t end until the final Monday of the season.

Michigan picked apart the Big Ten’s best defense to the tune of 1.26 points per possession. The offensive explosion was basically all derived from pick-and-pop action that put Purdue’s big men in defensive situations that they wanted no part of.

The attack worked and the shots were falling most of the night. Michigan made 66% of its twos and 42% of its threes for a 64.5 eFG% on the night. Purdue gave Michigan a bit of a hiccup early in the second by switching every screen — as the Wolverines missed their first 7 threes of the second half — but they finally started falling again with a Xavier Simpson triple that gave U-M its biggest lead.

This Michigan team will go wherever its offense takes it and the offense continues to prove that it is elite on that side of the ball. Michigan is up the 8th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and proved again that it just takes one 20 minute segment of perfect offense to beat just about any team in the country.

Defensively, the Wolverines were very good early, but allowed Purdue to climb back into the game late. Purdue missed a ton of shots in the paint, but Michigan deserves credit for contesting those looks and being aggressive without fouling. Caleb Swanigan made 8-of-11 shots, but he turned the ball over 5 times as the Wolverines applied great double-teams all night.

The Boilermakers ended up shooting 56% on twos and 31% on threes for a 53 eFG%, and three of Purdue’s 5 made threes came after Michigan pushed the lead to 22 points with 8 minutes to play.  There was a point in January where it looked like the Wolverines might not ever get a stop in Big Ten play, over the last few weeks they’ve looked significantly better on that side of the ball. You could probably count 10 possessions in this game that featured better defensive rotations than any possession in some of those early January losses.

This win should move Michigan safely into the NCAA Tournament, but there are still plenty of games to play. The next two games on the road at Northwestern and Nebraska are certainly winnable and there’s a real opportunity for the Wolverines to improve their seeding in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: Just give Walton the ball and see where he can take Michigan. The 6-foot-1 point guard grabbed more rebounds than anyone else on the floor — including Mr. Double-Double on the other end. He finished with a double-double himself in his final home game and made all of the big plays down the stretch when Purdue made a game of it. This offense works best when there’s a point guard running it to perfection and Walton has picked the right time to play the best hoops of his career.
  • Moritz Wagner: We’ve seen everything that Wagner did offensively tonight in the past, maybe not that much of it that quickly, but his defensive effort in the first half was the best I’ve ever seen from him. He was aggressive, he didn’t foul, he rotated and picked up deflections all over the place. When you outplay the conference’s best player, you deserve a pat on the back. One note, Wagner has ridiculous home/away splits. He’s shooting 74% on twos and 47% on threes and averaging 15 points per game at home this season and just 51% on twos and 38% on threes for 9 points per game on the road.
  • DJ WilsonWilson had some really key moments in the second half when he slid to the five. The move allowed him to rediscover his offense, but he also stuck in there and battled against Purdue’s big men down low. He might not have always won those battles, but he played tough. One play that caught my eye as a glimpse of the future: Michigan ran a 4-5 pick-and-roll out of a first half timeout and Wilson found Wagner in the roll. Jot that one down on the list of things you didn’t know Wilson had in the bag.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson checks in around the same time every game. That spot where Michigan’s offense has stalled just a bit and they’ve missed a couple of threes as the lead dwindles. He’s always going to get a three there, the question is will he make it. Today Robinson scored on a hook shot and with a three on back-to-back possessions with Michigan leading by 1, then he added a halftime buzzer-beater to answer a late mini-run by the Boilers. If those shots go the other way, it might be a different game. He finished with 11 pts on 4-of-5 (3-4 3pt) shooting with 3 rebounds and a block — a testament to his improved defensive play.
  • Xavier Simpson: Simpson’s confidence continues to rise and he scored 7 points on perfect shooting from the floor with a pair of assists. His defense is great, he’s confident offensively and he even knocked in a three. Michigan has brought him along slowly, but it feels like he could play a pivotal role in some important postseason game at this point. Is it a coincidence that two of Simpson’s best games this year were against guys that many wanted in his shoes at one point or another (Cassius Winston and Spike Albrecht), I’m not so sure.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanA quiet but important 10 points for Abdur-Rahkman who answered with a couple of key buckets during Michigan’s second half drought. When Purdue cut the lead to 11 midway through the second: Abdur-Rahkman rattled off two assists and a bucket in three straight possessions to swing the game back in Michigan’s favor.
  • Zak IrvinIrvin failed to have his Senior Day moment, finishing with 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting in 30 minutes. He’s a key cog defensively and seemed to hold his own, but the offense just wasn’t happening for him whether it was with his shot or drive.
  • Mark DonnalOther than two fouls, Donnal recorded a trillion in his final home game. He did have one great second half possession where he hedged a pick-and-roll and recovered to force a Swanigan travel, but he also was overpowered by Haas and forced Michigan to go with Wilson at the five.
  • Stephen Chang

    Wagner without question is the player of the game against Purdue, scoring 20 points in the first half and carrying the team on his back against the the toughest frontcourt in the Big 10 is very impressive. He will be one to watch for next year along with Wilson.

  • Alex

    I would suspect it’s the foul situation being different road and away. On the road I feel like Wagner is more likely to get in foul trouble. Maybe that’s not the case though. Who knows? Next thing for him to work on: consistency.

    • jemblue

      I was thinking the same. On the road, we frequently get a tough whistle, and he especially does.

  • No Walmart Fan Here.

    Where are all of the ” fire beilien” “this team is sift and will lose ten straight games” “We have to do better recruit our player sick” or “we’ll be lucky to make the n.I.t ” post on the forum at ? I don’t see anyone posting a ” this was a really good win” post . Anyways, where are all the people that were crying about Beilien letting Beifiedt walk for a 6-10 skinny German that was slow , weak and lack lateral quickness ((you know who said that) ? Where are the people who wanted DJ Wilson to transfer becauae he havent show them anything ? What about the MAAR and Duncan Robins has regressed and a waste if scholarship crowd ? This was a very good win. One that no one thought that we could win. Great win guys. It feels good to be a wolverine . I won a abundance of funds as well.

    • MAZS

      Still patting yourself on the back…….after the result is known. Hopefuly, you get positive feedback in your real life.

      • Coltrane

        Ha, ha. I’ve always hoped that the naysayers were being well paid in their real lives for their sharp analytical abilities and basketball insight.

      • No Walmart Fan Here.

        You’re darn right that I give myself a pat on the back because I have never given up up on this team. I’m a true fan… I buy season tickets for football, hockey, baseball, and even so.end sports. Yes I deserve a plat on the black for supporting UM sports and that’s my sin to some on these boards. I have actually TRAVELE . to see RECRUITS…SO knock me fo r supporting Beiluen and this program. You get blacklisted for being a true can and defending thus program. I have been to every game that I could be home or away before my current injury and the suicide of my son who was bullied in Rochester Michigan and yes I’m black…I will live off MICHIGAN through him because our family loves this program. I graduated from Rutgers (muss me with the bigoted ” you have bad grammar crap” because I’m posting from the hear . Anyways.,zzzZZ I EXPALI ED IT ALL… GO SEE recruits play and then talk to me. I will post myself on the back for not giving up on this program. No apologies!!!!

    • Chris De Sana

      I have been as critical as anyone at times over the course of the year, but willingly admit when this team is rolling it is fun to watch and they can compete with most. That said we have to keep in mind what we saw in this game, a team that played far better defense refusing to be bullied in the paint and running shooters off the line. Not like we have seen that much. We also have to take note that this team took advantage of situational basketball as well, something we have not seen much of in the past.

      I can only hope that this is what we will see on a more consistent basis going forward.

  • bobohle

    This was a really good win and I think we will win at NW an at Neb.

  • Barth Applefeld

    You are a fabulous reporter. It’s amazing how a few words by an opponent can change a season, despite what Coach Beilein and every other coach says. The team was no where close to understanding what it takes to play defense and win, and afterwards they started making substantial progress. The last three games before this one I’ve been impressed even though they had a victory taken away from them. This game was more erratic, but they were up 15 at half and 22 in the second half. I would also amend the statement that a perfect half of offense can just about beat anyone to a perfect half of offense combined with a solid effort on defense for that half can beat just about anyone. As Beilein said after the game, keep winning. You don’t want the selection committee to have to make any discretionary decisions with the big 10 down this year.

  • Chezaroo

    Recorded a trillion. That’s funny. ?

  • ChathaM

    A few weeks ago, we had someone ask about the odds of finishing the season well enough to get a tourney bid, and I figured them to be at about 40%. Since then, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the defensive intensity of the team, and they’ve almost sealed a bid already. It really is an amazing development story, and the coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for it. We already knew that this team could be a nightmare to guard. When they are clicking offensively, AND they guard with intelligence and intensity, like today, they can play with anyone. I was so impressed with the team defence today. My favourite possession ended at the 9:20’ish mark of the 2nd half. It began with a post double, progressed to closing out effectively on every shooter as the ball swung around the perimeter, and ended with a defensive rebound after a missed contested 3 by a player who clearly didn’t want to take the shot. It was basically a defensive coaching video. If you’re doing a 3KP for this game, Dylan, and if you’re open to nominations, I’ll nominate that sequence.

    Walton had a double-double, and zero turnovers. For a point guard, that is insane.

    I feel badly for Irvin, and would hate to see his career finish with a string of games where he just can’t put the ball in the basket. I feel like he has to hit a huge shot somewhere down the stretch in some game over the next few weeks. At least, I hope it happens.

  • Chris De Sana

    Big win and great to see the seniors go out in that manner.

    From embracing the physicality of playing post defense to running shooters off the line, job well done. Taking advantage of the skill sets of Moe and DJ taking their bigs away from the rim and even showing a little high low action at one point. All good stuff. Still major concerns with Zak, to the point as mentioned before its time to start Robinson.

    MAAR made some big plays when called on, getting down hill and to the rim.

    Simpson improving by the minute played.

    Walton’s big shot to help us hold on…. but man o man do I hate it when they stop running the offense late in the game.

    Now build on it and keep it rolling.

    • A2MIKE

      Agree with everything except starting Robinson. He is so much better coming off the bench.

      • Totally agree with not starting Robinson. Think about it this way… when the offense sputters midway through the half do you want to bring Zak off the bench and setup a play for him to get an open three?

        • bobohle

          NO!!!!!!!!

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Great win! We are in the tourny with that one…Wagner played amazing, Walton played Iike a senior, DJ/Rahkman/Robinson all did their job. Xavier has really impressed of late…he continues to contribute on minimal minutes…when we play good we are great but when we play bad we really bring our level down like OState game…hope we continue playing strong into postseason play…Beilein has found another gem in Wagner…hope we get to play in Buffalo opening round – getting tickets to those sessions

  • ChipperFliet

    That was indeed a great win. And it was a great game to be at. Unfortunately I left my phone in my car, and I was unable to follow the open thread. Prob worked out for the best.
    I took a look back at it this morning. I was extremely curious to see how everybody was feeling about JB’s strategy to “burn” clock. Turns out a lot of you felt the same as me. It was DUMB!

    I understand that I might ruffle a few feathers here by being critical of a coach and team who just beat the best team in the B1G by double figure. So to those who are upset or offended by my following remarks I say this, “I guess we can agree to disagree”.

    Not sure of the exact time and lead at the time, but I believe it was somewhere b/n the 5 and 6 min mark, with an 11 or 12 pt lead when Beilein took the air out of the ball. Way to early. Sorry, but I am a firm believer that when you are rolling along and the other team is spiraling down the drain, you put your foot on their throat and finish the deal. Don’t give then any life at all. What happens on one side of the floor often carries over to the other side of the floor. And that is exactly what happened. Stop playing with the intensity and aggressiveness on the offensive side (which is what got you the lead) and you lose a step on the defensive side. Keep in mind they passed up a 3 on 2 and a 2 on 1 fast break, both of which could have lead to monster dunks. Which in turn would have lit up the crowd, instead everyone was nervous as hell as their lead dwindled. The only thing that saved them was a turning, stumbling, step through two defenders, lofted up push shot PRAYER by DW! If that shot does not go in, I think they lose.

    Criticism # 2 – They do not recognize, or just choose not to the advantages of obvious mismatches. When Purdue started switching on their screens at the start the 2nd half, Moe ended up with someone 7″ shorter than him 3 times in a row. Never got a touch. Never went down on the blocks. Never even got a look. Just kept running the offense. Wasn’t until during a dead ball that I saw JB get into Moe’s ear as he ran down the court that I saw him take his man down and post him up. But of course he did not get the ball because Mich guards have no idea how to feed the post down there. Also when DW ended up with Swanigan guarding him, all he could manage was a jab step fade away 16 foot jump shot, which fell short. Conversely, when “X” ended up with Swanigan on him, he did not hesitate. Blew by him.Got to the rack and ended up on the free throw line. Way to go X!

    Criticism # 3 – Why oh why did Zak Irvin keep ending up with the ball with shot clock expiring. I am sorry. I love Zak. He has made big sacrifices in his game through out his career for the betterment of the team and his confidence never wavers and I applaud him for that. But C’mon man! His shot is broke and broke good. I don’t think that clunker is getting fixed this year (or ever). There has to be a better option than Zak when the shot clock is expiring.

    Not a “M” criticism here, and not to take anything away from the the “W”, but Purdue brought zero energy to the game. Which has been Purdue’s only fault for the year. They don’t always play with urgency on the road. Us Michigan fans are used to seeing a team not play with energy at times. Although recently they seem to have flipped the switch on for good (thankfully).

    Now for what JB did/does right – I love it that he consistently fuels his guys with confidence. He made the right call on the OB play at the end of the 1st half. He left Moe and others on the bench when the bench players were playing well, expanding their lead, and he only played Zak 30
    minutes. At one time leaving him on the bench for an unprecedented 4 1/2 minutes.

    That’s all – Go Blue!

    • ChathaM

      Some great points there. After X hit his free throws to put us up 21 with about 7.5 minutes to play, you could kind of start to think of the game as a math / odds exercise. “If we take care of the ball, use clock, and score a bit, they’d have to score X times to catch us”. Stuff like that. I don’t know whether Beilein thought of it that way. It’s all valid in theory, but the problem, as you said, is that the approach can carry over to the defence, which it definitely did, and the equation quickly changes. I agree that we’re best off continuing to run our stuff and not worry about burning clock. We are simply too tough to guard when we run our stuff well, and our odds are always best when we do that. For weaker offensive teams, maybe the best approach is the use clock and play an odds game. But, that’s not us.

      It was frustrating to watch that consistent second half post mismatch not exploited. They have to be prepared for that. Preparation could have created an easy bucket, or a post double that led to an easy 3-point look. I get that the first few possessions were a surprise, but a quick timeout and adjustment would have been appropriate. We’ve seen surprises from teams in each of our last two games (the Rutgers pressure that they haven’t shown all year, then yesterday). The halftime adjustment at Rutgers was solid, but yesterday’s recognition and adjustment, without the benefit of a 15 minute break to coach, wasn’t good.

      I don’t like Zak with the ball in his hands in late clock situations, either. He cannot break down his man off the dribble. I’d rather see a high ballscreen for either Walton or MAAR there, with shooters spotting up on the wings and/or in a corner. I won’t be surprised to see that change for Wednesday’s game.

  • AC1997

    @umhoops:disqus

    You mentioned the vast home/road splits with Wagner. But check out his fouls per game home/road and see the massive disparity there too. At home he averages 2.2 fouls per game and on the road he averages 3.6. That’s the entire story right there. You even saw it in this game against Purdue – he scored 22 in the first half and then got that 3rd foul and it totally affected his involvement in the second half. He played a lot less and then when he did play he wasn’t as involved in the game.

    The home/road whistle has such a massive impact on our team because of how DJ and Moe get involved in the game. Another example is the home loss to OSU. Both guys, especially Moe, got those early fouls and totally changed the way they played and the team played.

  • ChipperFliet

    @umhoops:disqus Thank you. I see now that you were “just working”. Thumbs up to hardest working beat writer in the sport.

  • bobohle

    I agree with ChipperFliet that letting the clock run down with 6 minutes to go is too soon. To me that is playing not to lose. Also Dylan I thank you.Andrew,Orion and your crew for the great job you do. Especially for those of us who live far enough away where we can’t get down to A2 like we want.