Michigan welcomed the Big Ten leading Purdue Boilermakers to Ann Arbor on Saturday as the Wolverines celebrated Senior Day before the season’s last home game. A hot first half and a career day from Moe Wagner helped Michigan (19-10, 9-7 B1G) earn a vital 82-70 win.
The defenses led the way to start the game, with both teams benefiting from some sloppiness early on. Michigan brought a 13-11 lead into the under-12 timeout, with each team logging four turnovers in the opening minutes. While Wagner ignited the Wolverines early with six points, Zak Irvin’s struggles continued, as the senior started 1-for-4 with an air ball and travel.
Wagner stayed hot as the first half continued, hitting a pair of threes sandwiched around a Derrick Walton steal and layup to give Michigan a seven-point advantage with 7:23 left in the half. Just two minutes later the lead was up to 13, powered by triples from Wagner and Walton.
Everything was rolling for the Wolverines as the half ended, as Duncan Robinson hit a three as time expired to give them a 45-30 lead. Michigan shot over 65 percent from the floor during the first 20 minutes while going 7-for-13 from deep. Playing in his last home game, Walton had a great half, logging nine points and four assists, while also leading all players with seven rebounds.
However, the first half belonged to Wagner, who simply could not be stopped. The forward notched 22 points — including four shots from behind the arc — and was effective down low despite playing against national player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan.
.@moritz_weasley 22 first-half points are the most by a Wolverine in the first half since Daniel Horton had 24 vs. Bowling Green (12/11/02)!— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) February 25, 2017
Michigan looked a little slower to start the second half but maintained their double-digit lead. Wagner hit the bench early with his third foul, and the Boilermakers drew five fouls in the first nine minutes after just two Wolverine fouls in the first half.
Following the under-12 timeout, the Wolverines turned it on, recording a pair of baskets and a couple of stops before a Xavier Simpson triple gave Michigan a 60-42 lead, their biggest margin yet, and caused Purdue to call a timeout of their own.
A 10-0 run by the Boilermakers made it a 70-59 game with four and a half minutes to play. Baskets by Wagner and Wilson stopped the momentum and kept the lead safe temporarily, but Purdue brought the lead down to four with just 2:14 to go.
It looked like everything was slipping away for Michigan, but Walton hit a huge three with less than a second left on the shot clock to push the lead back to seven. A defensive stop, pair of free throws, another stop, and two more free throws all but sealed the win with a minute left.
Wagner recorded a career-high 24 points and really brought the energy for the Wolverines. Walton and Irvin had games that typified their final seasons, although for very different reasons- the former with a double-double, the latter with many forgettable moments.
Armed with wins over Wisconsin and now Purdue, Michigan is probably a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines travel to Northwestern on Wednesday before wrapping up the regular season against Nebraska next Sunday in Lincoln.