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A Swift Dose of Reality -- Purdue 74, Michigan 61

Gameplan: Don't let Robbie Hummel or Lewis Jackson beat you. Terone Johnson, of all people, beats you.
Gameplan: Don't let Robbie Hummel or Lewis Jackson beat you. Terone Johnson, of all people, beats you.

I think it's pretty safe to say that Michigan's momentum has been halted. The Wolverines had won four straight -- including a huge home upset over Ohio State and a hard-fought overtime win over Northwestern on the road -- they'd managed to work their way into the Big Ten title picture (which is all but lost now), and projections had Michigan as a three seed in the NCAA Tournament. People, including myself, were discussing a potential Final Four run and others, notably Luke Winn, were talking about even more. Winning out in the regular season seemed like a given. With Zack Novak and Stu Douglass suiting up for their last of many games at the Crisler Center against an opponent that Michigan had already beaten earlier this year on the road, this game against Purdue was supposed to be nothing more than a formality. Unfortunately, we were reminded that Michigan isn't a team that's quite talented enough to coast by average-to-decent teams; Purdue played with an impressive defensive intensity and rode stellar offensive performances from Terone Johnson and Robbie Hummel to a comfortable win.

In retrospect, it probably should have been easy to see a performance like this coming. Of course, I don't know if anyone could have foreseen such a definitive loss -- after all, Purdue is a solid cut below the top tier or two in the Big Ten -- but still, it isn't surprising that such a young team had a letdown after two exceptionally tough games. Purdue started off with a 12-2 run to open the game in front of a rather docile crowd at Crisler. (Having the students on break definitely was the difference in terms of volume. Tim Hardaway Jr. tried his best to get the crowd on their feet a few times, but it was pretty ineffective). Stu Douglass scored five points and contributed an assist to cut the deficit to 3, and Purdue's hot shooting eventually cooled off a bit, but Michigan was not able to tie the game until almost midway through the second half. Purdue's late run to stretch the lead from 52-49 to 70-54 put the lead out of reach with a minute and a half left. Purdue's offensive possessions during that stretch are as follows:

  • Terone Johnson takes Zach Novak to the rim and gets an and-one. 55-49.
  • Michigan makes a poor defensive rotation and Robbie Hummel nails a three. 58-51.
  • Hummel gets left alone and buries another from the top of the arc. Michigan timeout. 61-51.
  • Lewis Jackson gets to the basket and somehow finds a way to get a layup past Jordan Morgan. 63-54.
  • Terone Jackson takes Novak to the rim again and gets another and-one. 66-54.
  • Hummel is fouled after getting the ball in-bounds and converts a one-and-one free throw opportunity. 68-54.
  • Hummel is sent to the line again after a defensive rebound and adds two more 70-54.
Perhaps the most perplexing thing about this game is that Michigan's defense lost it down the stretch. After two stellar efforts against Ohio State and Northwestern, the Wolverines defense simply could not handle Johnson or Hummel down the stretch. The Boilermakers scored an absurd 2.57 points per possession in this short stretch, but played well for most of the game and totaled 1.23 points per possession for the entire game. Michigan hadn't done that badly on defense since the Duke game back in November. Purdue constantly got good looks inside around the basket with open layups and contested finishes (it seemed like Johnson took it at Novak every time and scored), made enough threes, and didn't turn it over. Their lack of emphasis on the offensive glass helped out their transition defense; Michigan couldn't get out and run and Trey Burke only scored in transition once. Speaking of Burke, Purdue's very physical defense held him in check much like the first game, plus the quickness of Lewis Jackson gave him problems and he wasn't ever able to get by Hummel and Jackson off of the pick-and-roll.
eFG % 56.5 49.2
TO % 8.2 14.8
OR % 21.4 26.5
FT Rate 29.6 6.7

If anything, this game was really weird. It's incredibly rare for Michigan to turn it over more often than their opponent, and even more rare is when the Wolverines outrebound them. Still, credit to Purdue -- I didn't think that they were capable of this defensive intensity, but they were -- Michigan was outplayed for most of the game.

Player Bullets:
  • Trey Burke -- As I mentioned earlier, Burke was very limited by Purdue's defensive pressure and physicality and their stubborn emphasis on transition defense. As a result, his stat line wasn't good: 4-12 shooting (2-6 from three), 12 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 4 turnovers.
  • Tim Hardaway -- I'll just turn this over to my fellow Maize n Brew writer Fouad Egbaria over at his old blog, Holdin' the Rope:
THJ--You know, if you take out the 0-6 from 3, Tim went 5-7 from inside the arc en route to 10 points and six boards. However, you can't eliminate that, and paired with four turnovers, watching THJ crumble mentally within the first five minutes of each game is becoming painful to watch. I wish I had snapped a picture of THJ's facial expression after his airball from the top of the key; it was an apropos combination of horror, disbelief, and nihilistic rage. I would love for Beilein to cut up a Terone Johnson highlight tape from this game, show it to THJ, and be all "Hey, do that" It's gotten to the point that each brick is becoming an obvious spirit-killer. I understand the frustration that comes with not being able to do a thing that, in your heart and mind, is a thing that you can (and have) done with great success before. At the same time, part of the maturation process is realizing when it just isn't working, and how not realizing or acknowledging this fact can affect the team. These next two games will be huge for THJ.

Fouad's commentary on Hardaway's struggles was excellent in his recap. If you don't read his stuff yet, do it.

  • Jordan Morgan -- Morgan had a decent, if unspectacular day against Purdue. He managed 8 points on 4-7 shooting, bricked a pair of free throws, and notched three offensive and three defensive rebounds. If not for a few missed shots inside, I'd say that it was a very good day for Morgan, but it was close.
  • Zack Novak -- It's too bad that Novak's final home game went this way. He was consistently bullied by Terone Johnson and wasn't able to get much going on offense until the late three point barrage to try to come back. The final stat line is okay: 12 points and 6 rebounds, but it was a tough game for Novak.
  • Stu Douglass -- Stu had a decent day with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and one turnover, but 3-7 shooting for 7 points isn't great. Most of his damage was done early, but he might have still had the best game of any Michigan player (save for maybe Morgan).
  • Evan Smotrycz -- Smotrycz's role has diminished noticeably in Big Ten play, but made a key three pointer and a nice move to the basket. Purdue was probably too small for him to guard a four, so that might explain why he didn't play much.
  • Matt Vogrich -- 1-3 on threes.
  • Corey Person -- For how often Person is mentioned as a leader in the locker room, it was nice to see him get a few buckets in garbage time on Senior Day.
This game was disappointing because of the extenuating circumstances: Michigan simultaneously lost a realistic shot at the Big Ten title, lost Zack and Stu's final home game, and failed to seal the deal on an undefeated home season. Expectations have been tempered a bit, and this game definitely proved that Michigan's not good enough to coast into the Sweet 16 in March. For now though, hopefully the Wolverines can get back on track with a road game against an Illinois team that has pretty much imploded.