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Purdue 87, Michigan 70: Defensive Deterioration

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had a career night, but little offense help and no second-half defense did the Wolverines in against Purdue.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The odds were stacked against Michigan (12-4, 2-1 B1G) before the ball was tipped.

The Wolverines were in West Lafayette, preparing to face the nation's best defense that boasts two seven-footers and a handful of lockdown perimeter defenders, when it was announced that Caris LeVert would miss his second straight game with a lower left leg injury. Without its best offensive player, Michigan fought, scrapped, and hung in for most of the game, but it was its defense, not its offense, that deteriorated down the stretch as #20/18 Purdue (14-2, 2-1 B1G) used a 52-point second half to beat U-M, 87-70.

The Boilermakers had four double-digit scorers and were led by center A.J. Hammons, who recorded 17 points on 7-of-10 shots, five rebounds, and four blocks and propelled Purdue to a 42-18 advantage in the paint. On the other side, it was Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who replaced LeVert in the starting lineup, that carried Michigan offensively. He smashed his career high with 25 points on 10-of-16 field goals thanks to some hot shooting from mid-range and nifty drives to the rim. However, Abdur-Rahkman didn't get much assistance from his teammates because they made just 13-of-45 shots (28.9 pct.). It was too much to overcome as Purdue continued to score and score.

The game didn't start with Purdue being on a roll offensively, though. The first 15 minutes or so were a slugfest as both teams struggled to score points. The Boilermakers missed a few bunnies, but, usually, they were able to score when they got the ball in the post and took it to the rim. But the Boilermakers were ice cold from the outside, missing all nine of their two-point jumpers and six of their eight threes. As a result, Abdur-Rahkman was doing just enough to keep Michigan ahead, and Duncan Robinson (10 points, 3-of-8 FG) buried a three to give U-M a 23-19 lead with 5:33 left in the first half.

However, Purdue suddenly started clicking offensively, using a quick 12-0 spurt near the end of the period to take a 35-28 lead into the break. The Boilermakers didn't cool down when the second half started either, but Abdur-Rahkman's rampant scoring kept the Wolverines in it until the final five minutes after Zak Irvin knocked down three free throws to cut Purdue's lead to 66-60. But Michigan couldn't get a stop. Purdue scored on each of its final 10 possessions, tallying 23 points, to ensure there would be no late-game drama. All in all, the Boilermakers averaged 1.68 points per possession in the second due to converting 16-of-21 field goals (76.2 pct.) and 7-of-10 threes after the intermission.

This wasn't a game that Michigan was expected to win, particularly since LeVert was out, but it did cause Michigan's defensive issues from previous games to reappear. The Wolverines weren't supposed to contend with Purdue's towers down low, but too often did the Boilermakers' guards and wings penetrate past U-M's defense for easy layups.

This will need to be rectified as the schedule doesn't get any easier. Michigan will take the weekend off before it hosts #3/3 Maryland at the Crisler Center next Tuesday.