No, that is not the title of a Steinbeck or McCarthy novel, but it summarizes the bleak, desiccated form the Michigan offense has taken.
The Wolverines returned to the place where they scored a dramatic overtime victory on Feb. 26, 2014, looking to build off of the momentum of the Illinois game. This time, however, Michigan came in as an underdog.
As everyone knows, winning on the road is tough; it was a hard-fought win in West Lafayette last season, and those Wolverines finished 15-3 in league play. Obviously, things are a little different this time around.
Things got off to a nice start, with Derrick Walton and Ricky Doyle jumpers on Michigan's first two possessions. However, foul trouble stuck early, when Kam Chatman picked up his second at the 17:19 mark, forcing Beilein to call upon Aubrey Dawkins, the hero of the Illinois game, less than three minutes in.
Purdue jumped out to an early 9-6 lead, paced by five points from Rapheal Davis. Things got physical real early, as one possession full of bumping and elbows resulted in both an Isaac Haas offensive foul and a Matt Painter technical, which the Mackey crowd wasn't too pleased about. While Michigan did draw the offensive foul on that possession, one thing was painfully clear: Haas was tossing Michigan's post defenders around like they weren't even there (he did throw an elbow on that possession, but otherwise he was gaining position on the block with complete ease).
The offensive foul was Haas's second, but, unfortunately for the Wolverines, the Boilermakers have the incredible luxury of just subbing in AJ Hammons.
After LeVert knocked down a pair of technical foul free throws, Max Bielfeldt showed his range with a triple following a Zak Irvin offensive board, giving Michigan a 12-10 lead. Walton drilled another triple on the next possession -- at the very least, the rims seemed looser than they have been. Meanwhile, checked by Davis and his tenacious defense, Caris LeVert started 0-for-3 -- that is, until a wide open breakaway dunk gave him his first field goal at 6:43.
Shortly thereafter, Michigan gained its biggest lead of the game, four, when another offensive board allowed Irvin to bury a triple from the right wing. The Wolverines were 3-for-6 from beyond the arc at this point -- small sample size, but a good start nonetheless.
Then, Spike Albrecht gave the Wolverines a spark, splashing back-to-back triples to give Michigan a 30-20 lead late in the half. Michigan just needed to avoid giving up a late run in order to enter the half with good vibes. Purdue launched a 5-0 run, but Albrecht answered again, dribbling around a Ricky Doyle ball screen to bury another triple, sending Michigan into the half up 33-25.
It was an ugly, ugly first half, but surprise surprise, Michigan's 6-for-11 mark from downtown served as the difference.
Eventually, however, Purdue was likely to make a run. How the Wolverines answered then would likely determine the outcome.
Early in the second, Chatman picked up his third foul -- clearly, Michigan wasn't going to get much from him on this day.
A few minutes in, a nice Jon Octeus shot fake and drive cut Michigan's lead to two. The Wolverines had just two points through 4:31 of second half play. Just like that, Michigan's halftime cushion almost completely evaporated.
Purdue regained the lead, 38-36, and seemed to be grabbing every one of its misses on the offensive boards. Michigan was reeling, but fortunately for them, Kendall Stephens fouled Walton in the act of shooting a three. He buried all three, briefly giving Michigan the lead again.
With that said, despite success from outside, Michigan struggled right at the rim. In transition with numbers, Irvin missed his fourth layup of the afternoon, points Michigan surely could have used. The aggressiveness is nice, but with Albrecht on the break with him, you have to think a kick to the corner is the better play there.
In any case, Michigan had six second half points through 10:30 of play. That is not a winning formula; someone, anyone, had to step up, especially with Purdue not exactly running away with things.
Another strong Octeus drive extended Purdue's lead to six, 45-39. Finally, LeVert hit a difficult floater at 6:40 to get Michigan back on the board, but even that bucket didn't come easy.
But, Purdue took the lead back to nine with a Stephens three. Up 50-41, Michigan's deficit was greater than the number of points it had scored in the second half to that point (eight). Translation: the game is over.
It's difficult to call the second game of league play a "must-win," but this was one the Wolverines badly needed. Road wins are hard to come by, but this was a winnable one and the Michigan offense simply collapsed into a pile of dust, tumbleweeds and stray bits of Harry's popcorn.
Michigan gets another crack at a "winnable" road game at Penn State on Tuesday, but if the season to date is any indication, this team just isn't very good. Down years will happen, but the play of Michigan's stars has been underwhelming, to say the least, and while the freshmen have shown flashes here and there, they have played, for the most part, like freshmen.
So it goes. It's too early to write this team off for a tourney bid, but things are looking fairly bleak right now. You can't embark on 10+ minute field goal droughts and expect to beat anyone, let alone a league opponent (Michigan had 10+ minute field goal droughts in three games this season).
Albrecht led the Wolverines with 17 points (4-for-7 overall, 4-for-5 from three). Walton, Irvin and LeVert combined for a 6-for-29 mark from the field, or 20.6 percent. Michigan shot just 30.4 percent as a team, and allowed Purdue to rebound 46 percent of its misses. Fin.
With the loss, the Wolverines fell to 8-6 (1-1) on the season. Tip-off at the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday is set for 7 ET.