After what seemed like the week off that would never end, the Wolverines took the Crisler Center floor tonight to avenge last year's Senior Night defeat. They were met with a little more resistance than expected through about 30 minutes.
The Wolverines returned to the Crisler Center floor tonight to avenge last season's brutal home loss against the Boilermakers, Michigan's only loss at Crisler last season.
Trey Burke was determined not to allow history to repeat itself early. He drove around the corner on a high ball screen and hit an open Nik Stauskas in the corner for three. On the next possession, he zoomed from about half court all the way to the basket for a left-handed layup, once again looking like Denard Robinson if you put a basketball in his hands.
Michigan was a bit sloppy on the defensive glass, however, and Purdue was hitting its shots early; a Terone Johnson trey put PU up 11-8 about four minutes into the game. In terms of shot volume, the Boilers had the edge, with eight field goal attempts to Michigan's three in the early stages.
The play picked up speed, and it didn't work out too well for Michigan, as Purdue rattled off a brief run that put them up 16-9. Needless to say, Michigan was not playing good or composed basketball on either end of the floor. Even Nik Stauskas airballed a three short after getting beat by D.J. Byrd from well downtown at the other end.
At the same time, there was always the sense that Purdue probably couldn't keep that shooting pace up and Michigan would eventually orient itself after living in the gravity-less void that was "not playing for a week."
I'm not sure what percentage of the first half can be chalked up to things like "rust," but everything about the Wolverines just looked slightly off, like a painting in the Louvre tilted slightly to the right or the left. It still looks like the work you've always known, but there's a slight degree of difference that yields some level of optical discomfort.
With all this being said, Michigan retook the lead, 24-23, less than 14 minutes into the first frame. So, it was shaping up to be a classic "that wasn't very good but hey it's all relative" sort of half.
Other than a general lack of cohesion, Michigan could not quite finish around the basket in the first half. Mitch McGary, who contributed many a crunkly play in the first half, went 0-3 from the field despite every attempt being within a few feet of the basket. Those putbacks not only slow the game down, they can be fairly demoralizing for the opponent.
It was a first half marked by a gradual return to form, but a Glenn Robinson III thunderdunk after faking the handoff on the left wing, was a reminder that this is, in fact, Michigan. You know, the hypertalented high-flying team that will occasionally dunk in your face. Yes, that one.
Still, Michigan trailed going into the half for the first time at Crisler this season.
Halftime Stats (Michigan 32, Purdue 33)
Michigan PPP: 1.05
- Burke: 3-7, 7 pts, 4 assists
- GRIII: 2-4, 6 pts, 6 rebounds
- THJ: 2-6, 6 pts, 1 block
Purdue PPP: 0.94
- Byrd: 4-8 (3-7 from 3), 11 pts
- T. Johnson: 3-7, 8 pts
- R. Johnson: 1-5, 3 pts, 4 assists
An explosive splitting of two Purdue defenders en route to a layup was how Michigan started the second half, but not after Stauskas missed a decent look at the basket. On the next possession, Jordan Morgan
also failed to convert at the rim. So, it seemed that the first half's issues would linger into the second.
Luckily, Byrd et al started to cool down from outside. A 5-0 Michigan run after a GRIII trey and a Stauskas putback at the rim gave Michigan's its biggest lead of the game at 44-40. After another Burke layup and a monstrous McGary block at the other end, it seemed as if there was blood in the water and the sharks were starting to circle (or do whatever sharks do.
McGary jumped into a passing lane and drew a foul soon thereafter, then engaging in his patented crowd pump-up maneuver. It was a CRUNK sequence indeed.
With seven or eight minutes to go, the Wolverines' lead had ballooned to 11, as the anticipated deluge of points finally came about. The funny thing about this is that Michigan had accomplished all of this with Stauskas just 1-3 from outside (the relatively low number of threes is more the "problem" there rather than the percentage) and Burke 0-4 himself from downtown. This is your Michigan of the past (CTV+V over and over again).
Speaking of our favorite Canadian, a Stauskas trey stemmed the tide of a 6-0 Purdue run, a brief stretch of discomfort for the Wolverines, who previously seemed set to pull away for good.
McGary continued to come up big late, with a dunk and a layup on back-to-back possessions to give Michigan a 12-point lead with 2:48 to go.
It wasn't an aesthetically brilliant outing, but after a week off and winning by double digits (in fact, I think they just barely covered), most errors can be forgiven. It's kind of like how every once in a while during the Michigan winter you think "Hey, today's the day I start playing at the IM Building every day!" You go once and miss everything but make some nice, gritty hustle plays to get you through. This game was like that, except Michigan basketball: a) doesn't stink and b) will continue to play in the ensuing weeks, unlike you, who will choose to stay inside and play Halo in South Quad instead.
In any case, it was nice to see the Wolverines withstand Purdue's early barrage of threes; things got a little hectic for a stretch, and several Wolverines made uncharacteristic plays that just weren't very controlled. Yet, we've often found ourselves saying these sorts of things this season. "Michigan didn't play that well, but look, they won by 15."
At times, Michigan takes its cues from its emotional cheerleader Mitch McGary: wild, slightly out of control and sometimes unaware of its own strength. These wins are like a McGary foul against an unsuspecting guard: you look up and wonder "Did I do that? I guess I did."