Michigan and Purdue are two teams that are completely ill-equipped to guard each other and that was never more clear than the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Michigan scored 32 points in its first 14 possessions after the break, that’s 2.28 points per possession, while Purdue scored 27.
That’s the sort of near perfect offense that would turn any average game into a rout, but instead the teams merely traded buckets and were tied at 68.
Michigan blinked first by turning the ball over on back-to-back trips and missing a pair of free throws as Purdue promptly opened up a six-point lead.. The Wolverines wouldn’t get back within a single possession until there were 31 seconds left.
The Wolverines eventually figured out a way to slow down Purdue, holding the Boilermakers scoreless for four consecutive possessions, but after cutting the deficit to just 4 points, Michigan turned the ball over on back-to-back trips once again and ended its comeback hopes.
Michigan played its best offensive game of the season* on the road against the No. 3 ranked defense in the country. The Wolverines posted an impressive 72% effective field goal percentage, making 63% of their twos and 57% of their threes.
It’s hard to complain about turning the ball over on 17% of possessions, but Michigan’s giveaways seemed to come in the most critical spots. The Wolverines also rebounded 36% of their missed shots for 19 second chance points.
The offense might not have scored every possession down the stretch, but Michigan should beat any team in the country if it scores 1.35 points per possession. Prior to this game, the best offensive performance by a Big Ten team in a losing effort this year was Illinois scoring 1.17 points per possession against Iowa.
Big Ten teams that score 1.15 points per possession or better are 27-1 in league play. Before tonight, only three teams — Michigan State vs. Maryland, Ohio State vs. Maryland and Purdue vs. Iowa — had scored more than 1.35 points per possession in a league game.
Which brings us back to the defense. Michigan allowed Purdue to score 1.41 points per possession, make 67% of its twos and 55% of its threes. Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards combined to score 54 points on 19-of-25 shooting from the field and 8 assists.
It felt like Michigan switched more screens off the ball in this game to deal with Purdue’s shooters getting open looks off the ball. The Boilermakers still hit 11 threes on 20 attempts (and three starters hit three triples), but Vincent Edwards got loose as a byproduct of all the switching. That communication off the ball led to him posting smaller guards or back-cutting mid-switch.
Michigan’s defense is improved this year, but forcing misses is still a challenge. The Wolverines couldn’t slow down Haas, but they are ranked just 11th in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage defense this year. The improved defensive rebounding is great, but at some point the Wolverines need to force more misses.
It feels like an important weekend coming up for Michigan to regroup. This game was a reminder that some of those offensive flashes we saw earlier in the month might be real and that tired legs might have impacted U-M in recent dismal offensive showings. But this team is also just 6-4 in the league and needs to start racking up some victories and show some improvement on the defensive end of the floor. Ken Pomeroy lists Michigan as a favorite in its next seven games and now we’ll see how this team looks in games that it is supposed to win.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman played the best game of his season if not his career and hit big shot after big shot. He started out getting down hill and finishing at the basket and snapped out of a slump that had plagued him over the last four or five games. Is this a moment where he’s turning the corner? Shot making off the dribble and downhill attacking off the bounce is what this team needs and it will be interesting to see what the senior guard can carry over moving forward.
- Zavier Simpson: Simpson was in his bag of tricks driving to the basket in the first half and scored on a handful of acrobatic scoop layups around the rim. He knocked in a three and handed out 5 assists in an impressive 37 minute performance. I did think he got a little sped up late in the game and missed a key layup driving to the rim. Then there’s the free throw issue, he missed a pair in the final minute and that issue just isn’t going away.
- Moritz Wagner: Wagner had his moments scoring the ball and almost pulled Michigan back into the game late. Wagner seemed to force his one-on-one matchups at times, turning the ball over four times. He’s capable of attacking in those spots and his mismatch is what opens up so much for Michigan against a defense like Purdue’s, and he was much better at attacking the right spots in the second half.
- Charles Matthews: With Matthews, it always comes back to those two or three moments that you’d just love to have back. He had some nice moments in the loss. He was solid defensively and on the glass, he handed out six assists, and he was 4-of-7 inside the arc. He also had a backbreaking turnover throwing a weak entry pass late in the game and a few other costly turnovers with his handle in the first.
- Isaiah Livers: Livers had a quiet night offensively and only attempted three shots from the field, knocking in a 3-pointer. He missed a critical driving layup in transition in the second half, but I thought he gave Michigan some good energy at the four spot.
- Jordan Poole: Poole provided an offensive spark in the first half and had a great sequence where he got on the ground for a loose ball on defense and then knocked in a corner three on offense.
- Jon Teske: It actually seemed like Teske being on the floor helped Michigan’s ball screen offense a bit early because it allowed the guards to attack against a more traditional look. Michigan found Teske rolling to the hoop several times and he also had a couple of nice putbacks around the rim when the driver threw the ball up near the rim. 8 points and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes is a solid night for the sophomore big.
- Duncan Robinson: Robinson knocked in a three and drove for a layup in 8 minutes off the bench. He also had some really tough moments on defense which explains his lack of playing time.
- Jaaron Simmons: Simmons turned the ball over 3 times in 3 minutes and just didn’t look ready for a game of this magnitude on the road.
*Against a Division I opponent.