Big Ten Tournament: Michigan vs. Purdue Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Billy Donlon’s message is still written on the wall of Michigan’s locker room at the Verizon Center: NOT TODAY.

The Wolverines have been on the wrong side of a handful of close games this year, but they finally pulled one out with a 74-70 win over Purdue.

Purdue was on the verge of opening up a double-digit lead in the first half, but not today. DJ Wilson scored 10 straight points.

Michigan trailed in the final minute of the game, but not today. Zak Irvin didn’t settle for a three, he drove to the rim and tied the game.

The Boilermakers had a chance to win with a full court inbounds situation eerily similar to the Wolverines’ nightmare in Evanston, but not today. DJ Wilson swatted Carsen Edwards’ shot attempt.

At a high-level, the mismatches on both sides of the floor played out as expected. Moritz Wagner found himself on the bench with foul trouble and Michigan struggled to keep Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan away from the hoop. As predicted, Michigan opted to go small to exploit Purdue’s size on the other end of the floor and DJ Wilson played one of the best games of his young career, finishing with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 36 minutes.

The end result was a game that deserved overtime, not because it was the prettiest game, but because it was so damn close. The lead never drifted too far in either direction and the game featured 14 ties and 18 lead changes over 45 minutes. Neither team led by more than 4 points in the second half, but it wasn’t for the lack of opportunities.

Michigan seemed to miss every three that could have extended its lead and there was turnover, missed free throw, or offensive foul waiting whenever Purdue seemed to gain momentum. In the end, it was Zak Irvin that seized control of the game for the Wolverines. Not only did Irvin tie the game down the stretch, he also scored Michigan’s only made baskets in the extra period.

Michigan’s offense appeared to be feeling the effects of the last 48 hours. The Wolverines were just 1-of-14 from three-point range in the second half and overtime and their 46.7 eFG% was the third-worst performance of the season and worst in a win. Michigan shot 54% inside the arc and just 24% from three and had just 6 assists on 25 made field goals. Nothing was easy for Michigan, but it did manage 1.01 points per trip — keeping its streak of reaching a point per possession in every Big Ten game alive.

The Wolverines held Purdue to .96 points per possession and this was a game won on the defensive end of the floor. The Boilermakers have the No. 2 offense in the Big Ten and have the towering front line that Michigan doesn’t have any simple answer for, but the Wolverines scrapped and clawed and did everything they could to slow the duo just enough. Swanigan and Haas got their 30 points, but Purdue’s other options were mostly held in check. Just like Michigan wanted.

The Michigan defensive gameplan is locked in at this point: fight like hell to front the post, bring timely double-teams against formidable interior players and run all shooters off the line. The magic of that recipe is that the aggressive doubling and helping in the post isn’t leading to open threes, it is leading to turnovers. Purdue turned the ball over once every five trips up the floor, attempted under a third of its shots from three-point range and its shooting specialists had quiet nights.

This wasn’t a typical Michigan win and sometimes those are the most rewarding. Moritz Wagner admitted after the game that he gets tired of hearing that Michigan is a team that needs to make shots to win and while I’m not sure the Wolverines have dispelled that stereotype yet, this was a big step. Next up, a rematch with Minnesota on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. on CBS.

This is another quality win on the Michigan’s NCAA Tournament resume and the RPI is up to 34th nationally with the win. What does that mean for seeding? There are probably too many moving parts to say confidently right now, but it is certainly trending upward.

Player Bullets:

  • DJ Wilson: Wilson basically pulled Michigan off the mat when they were down 9 late in the first half with a personal 10-0 run: jumper, jumper, three, three and a lead. Without that run to keep Michigan in the game (and leading at half time) this could have been a humbling loss akin to last year’s Big Ten Tournament exit. Michigan’s best lineup today was with Wilson at the five and Duncan Robinson at the four and that’s because Wilson exploited offensive mismatches so effective, but also managed to hold his own defensively against Swanigan and Haas. Wilson’s games like this make his otherwise nondescript games that much more frustrating, but his potential is quite clearly through the roof and he had an array of impressive baskets on the night, plus he grabbed a team-high 8 rebounds for good measure.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin played 45 minutes, held Dakota Mathias to 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting and made all of the clutch plays down the stretch for the Wolverines. He had 13 points and was 5-of-9 inside the arc. He hit a few smooth mid-range jumpers, but he also had a number of strong takes to the rim as well. Irvin’s numbers aren’t pretty and he went through a rough stretch, but he’s playing confident basketball and was the reason that Michigan won this down the stretch. For all we’ve made of Walton’s senior moments, we have to give Irvin his due as well. His consistent level of effort on the defensive end also continues to impress: he grabbed 7 rebounds and a steal and gives U-M a level of consistency on that end.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanThis was the 8th straight game that Abdur-Rahkman has reached double figures and he also grabbed 7 boards to go along with his 10 points. He did a great job of attacking switches (3-of-6 on twos, 4-4 FTs), but his long range shot was missing in action (0-3).
  • Derrick WaltonWalton was just 3-of-10 from the floor and 1-of-5 from long distance with 4 assists to 4 turnovers. he still played 43 minutes and did a good job of running the team, but he made plenty of mistakes that he just hasn’t made that often over the last few months if not his career.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson hit a big three in the first half, but only had one more shot attempt and that was a missed three in the second that was wide open in transition and just didn’t fall. That being said, he had the best +/- of any Wolverine at +12 — a ringing endorsement for the small ball lineup.
  • Mark DonnalDonnal knocked in a three early on, but he was just no match for Isaac Haas down low. Haas consistently pinned him deep under the hoop and finished easily as Donnal was also whistled for 4 fouls in 10 minutes.
  • Moritz Wagner: Wagner was so dominant in the first meeting, but just couldn’t find his game on Friday. He was 0-of-5 from the floor and picked up a pair of silly fouls early and then just never got on track. He had his back wrapped on the bench, but he said it was nothing major and he had just “tightened up a little bit today”. As for his 17 minutes on the night, he said “that’s not my fault, that’s DJ’s fault for playing so well”.
  • Xavier SimpsonSimpson played 7 minutes and struggled, missing his only shot and turning the ball over twice.
  • eddieben

    Loved watching Irvin battle on the defensive end today. In addition to shutting down Dakota, when DJ moved to the 5 Irvin found himself guarding Biggie on multiple occasions. I don’t believe he gave up much (if any) during those matchups either.

    • mikey_mac

      Yes, the ringing endorsement of the small-ball lineup has a ton to do with Wilson and Irvin managing to play up a position each, defensively, against incredibly difficult assignments.

    • ChipperFliet

      I was at last years Purdue game in AA, and Zak was forced to guard Swanigan for most the game. He battled endlessly, and I gained a huge amount of respect for him that day!! And it was a “W”. I also was at this years Purdue game and that was pretty fun also.

  • MaizeBlue10

    So simple yet the perfect message, NOT TODAY.

  • Nick

    The Billy Donlon hire was a home run.

    Surprise Purdue didn’t play Spike more down the stretch or in OT. He got a steal then made a three and looked locked in.

  • gobluemd16

    So proud of this team, and so proud of Zak Irvin. He won us this game down the stretch. I have been very critical of him in the past, but praise for today’s game (and his recent play) is due. The defense really was great, and if you had told me our shooting statistics pregame, i’d have thought we had no chance. Super fun, intense, and competitive game to attend, as well! Go Blue!

    • gobluemd16

      Oh, and if anyone has extra tix for tomrw, lemme know!

    • ChipperFliet

      So happy for Zak! I was the one who said “his shot is broke and it ain’t getting fixed any time soon”. I t looks good now. But even more impressive is his acceptance of his role and determination to do what ever it takes to help is team win. His defense the last 2 games have been game changers!

  • ChipperFliet

    I just want to go on record saying “This is THE BEST “Coaching W” J B has ever had. Outstanding exploitation of match ups both offensively and defensively. The adversity of the officiating and foul trouble. His demonstrative actions that got him a “T” along with his composure throughout the 2nd half and OT. Pot game interview he gives a lot of credit to assistant coach Donlan and his game plan, but kudos to JB for trusting in his staff and letting them set the table for this awesome victory!

    Also, this has to be one of the grittiest, most hard fought, determined and toughest win Michigan has had in a very, very, long time> Go Blue #letswinthisthing

  • ChathaM

    We are now #71 in the country in defensive efficiency. That is remarkable, considering we were about double that several weeks ago. If we end up playing someone in the tourney that we saw during the non-con season, they won’t even recognize us.

    DJ’s personal first half run was enormous. I thought that things were falling apart between about the 9:00 and 5:00 mark of the first half. Walton stripped for a touchdown. MAAR air ball on a 3-point attempt. X with a poor driving decision, then a travel. Zak hits the side of the backboard. But then, DJ goes off on the offensive end, blocks a Haas shot and picks up a steal at the other end, and we are right back in the game. That was a special 4 minutes for him, and for us, because we were in trouble.

    Wagner didn’t have a good game, but making 5 of 6 free throws was a big factor. 18 of 23 as a team was also a factor in the win. We always notice it when poor free throw shooting costs us, but it’s easy to take it for granted when it’s a key factor in a win.

    I thought that Purdue did a great job in the first half of getting deep in the post; so deep that doubling wasn’t even an option once the ball was there. That was something they weren’t able to do in Ann Arbor. We prevented that much better in the second half, as Beielin noted in his comments. Purdue will really kick themselves over this loss, as they were in a clear close-out position. Missed free throws, including the one in the final 30 seconds, played a major role in the game. Dakota will probably remember that missed layup for a long time as well. I’m not sure about Purdue’s chances in the tourney. They seem like a well balanced team that should be a tough matchup for anyone. It might be their style of play that worries me. Pounding the post is a good thing. But, in a tourney setting, where you lose once and you’re done, they’re going to face a team that gets hot from 3, and they may end up trading 3’s for 2’s for a good stretch of the game. I’ll be pulling for them, but they worry me.

  • Barth Applefeld

    Wagner said he had a back wrap on all game-he was in a plane crash two days ago. This team is far from perfect defensively–but is definitely average in the B10. To made a deep run in the NCAA, they will have to continue to hit shots against very good teams, but I think it’s doable. Thanks again for the great job!
    “Michigan’s best lineup today was with Wilson at the five . . . because Wilson exploited offensive mismatches so effective.” Not first time you’ve written something like this in last month. ;-)