Michigan picked up its tenth win in ten tries on Thursday night with a routine victory over Purdue.
The Wolverines were clearly the better team, but never really quite rounded into gear. Despite Michigan committing a multitude of uncharacteristic turnovers, the Boilermakers didn’t have the determination, consistency or ability to provide a legitimate test. The nine point Michigan victory wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, but it wasn’t cause for celebration either.
The Wolverines gave the ball away on a quarter of their possessions, but were nearly unstoppable when they managed to hold onto the ball. Michigan shot 63% on twos and 54% on threes and kept Purdue at arm’s length throughout the night.
Michigan managed to score 1.13 points per possession despite all of its turnover woes. Purdue forced the Wolverines out of their comfort zone a bit offensively with over-aggressive extended pressure. That led to the turnovers and also lower assist numbers. Just 10 of Michigan’s 28 baskets were assisted because the extended defense left a number of driving lanes for Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas. It also led to a lot of wide open looks, free throw attempts, back door cuts and easy shots at the rim.
Purdue’s lack of shooting ability on offense was blatantly obvious. This was actually Purdue’s best offensive performance in the last four games at 1 point per possession. Michigan’s defensive rebounding performance was a bit disappointing, but that’s the one thing that Purdue does very well. The Boilermakers rebounded 40% of their misses and scored 19 second chance points. The Wolverines were beaten off the dribble badly a couple times early in the game, but for the most part were able to shore up those issues for long stretches.
While the middle of the Big Ten is nearly impossible to sort out, the top is clear. Michigan leads the way with Michigan State and Iowa on its heels. The Wolverines have another difficult hurdle ahead this weekend, traveling to Assembly Hall to try to knock off the Hoosiers.
- Derrick Walton: Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Walton had a couple ugly turnovers. Now the good news, he’s starting to relax and just play ball. Earlier in the year he was too worried about making a mistake to make plays. Now, Walton is looking to make plays and he’s succeeding more often than not. Walton knocked down a corner three, hit a mid-range pull-up, scored coast to coast at the half time break, knocked down a three when his defender went under a screen and had a beautiful assist to Jordan Morgan for a dunk. 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, 3 assists, three rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes caps off a great week for Walton.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert was as involved in this game as any other game season — on both ends of the floor. He had the ball in his hands a lot as he helped Walton handle Purdue’s ball pressure. LeVert didn’t have the most efficient offensive game (5-of-11 shooting with 4 turnovers), but he was aggressive and continued to probe for weak spots in the Purdue defense (he also rebounded two of his misses) when no one else seemed to command the ball. But LeVert really shined on the defensive end. He was Michigan’s best defender by a wide margin: tallying 9 defensive rebounds, three steals and two blocks. LeVert broke up three fast breaks (at least the first efforts) and was everywhere in Michigan’s defense. He did have his fair share of turnovers – many of which were because he’s starting to see passes but is just a second late with the delivery.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas finished with 16 points on 5-of-10 (1-3 3pt) shooting with 3 assists, 4 turnovers and 3 blocks. He scored in the usual ways: fast break three, dribble hand-off, baseline drive, back door dunk. He really excelled playing along the baseline behind Purdue’s over aggressive defense. This is the sort of performance that feels average given his ridiculous outings lately, but would be very impressive for just about anyone else.
- Jordan Morgan: Despite his flaws, AJ Hammons is still very difficult to score over or around, and Morgan had a few difficulties, but was generally effective in finishing with 11 points (4-of-6 fg), 6 rebounds and three turnovers. Morgan’s most impressive finish was a little fall away jumper after catching the ball on the screen and roll.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson scored a quiet 8 points on 3-of-6 (1-3 3pt) shooting in 36 minutes. He finally saw a three go down, made a nice little face up drive and jumper, and knocked down a difficult layup in transition. I wrote in the preview that Basil Smotherman was a good defender, but for whatever reason Robinson just never found a groove.
- Jon Horford: Horford had a great pass to Robinson for a corner three (passing up a 16-foot jumper) and also had a very impressive post move over the Purdue defense, he also had a big tip slam in the first half.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht had a very rough shift in the first half, but bounced back in a nice way in the second half. He checked in and broke Purdue’s pressure for a layup and then knocked down a three. He also shored things up defensively in the second half as Purdue was insistent upon shooting jumpers over him rather than attacking him.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin’s hitting a bit of a freshman skid, but he knocked down a huge three midway through the second half after Purdue had cut the lead to eight points.