The Michigan Wolverines continue to roll down the stretch of the Big Ten regular season, moving to 18-9 on the season and 9-7 in the Big Ten win a 71-63 win at Purdue (14-4, 7-10 B1G) on Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette, Indiana. The victory is the team’s seventh in the last eight games and gives them a season sweep over the Boilermakers.
Michigan was led offensively by arguably the best outing of freshman forward Franz Wagner’s young career, scoring a career-high 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting with five rebounds and three assists. Isaiah Livers returned after missing one game this week due to an ankle injury and finished with 19 points, including 8-for-8 from the free throw line down the stretch.
The Wolverines shot 38.5 percent from the field in the game and shot a lower percentage than Purdue, who they were still able to hold to 39.7 percent from the floor. Michigan made two more threes and six more free throws in the game and that would wind up being the difference. after things got a little bit tighter late.
The offenses combined to start 7-for-27 from the floor as Purdue took an early 11-10 lead in this game, but the Wolverines would pretty much cruise from that point on. Michigan ended the first half on a 26-10 run to take a 36-21 lead into the locker room at the half. Purdue was able to chip away at that deficit at times through the second half, but were unable to get it down to single digits until inside the last two minutes of the game when they started fouling. All eight of Livers’ points from the free throw line came in the last 1:23 of game action.
- It has been a different guy stepping up lately in each game and Saturday was Wagner’s turn to shine. He had been putting together a stretch of some really nice performances lately, namely on the boards, but his offensive output is starting to match his effort and that’s just more ammo for this team heading into March. He was tremendous on Saturday and played his best game in a Michigan uniform.
- For as much as we have discussed Michigan’s hot stretch being due to having Livers back on the floor (and make no mistake about it, it sure is), their defense is the biggest thing that has led to this late-season resurgence. Because we give credit where credit is due here, we will let our pal Scott Bell tell the story.
You can point to a lot of things to explain Michigan's turnaround, but you better start w/ defense.— Scott Bell (@sbell021) February 22, 2020
Michigan played in 7 games in January. It gave up 534 points (76.3/game).
Michigan has played in 7 games in February. It has allowed 426 points (60.8/game).
That's 15+ pts/game.
- I thought this was the best Jon Teske that we have seen in a few weeks, at least. He seemed to be playing more aggressive and have a little more of an edge to him. The box score (11 points on 5-for-13 shooting, five rebounds, four assists) may tell you the struggles continued, but anyone who watched the game saw a different guy and some encouraging signs moving forward on Saturday. He and his teammates did a great job on Trevion Williams, as well. He was able to notch 18 points, but needed 21 shot attempts to do so. Very nice work.
- Do not put too much stock in to a one-point performance from Zavier Simpson on 0-for-10 shooting from the floor. With him, we know that sometimes the offense just is not there and he has been key in other games lately. Six assists to only one turnover is still something to be proud of. He was not great, but over the course of a season, games like this are bound to happen.
- It seems like Eli Brooks will be fine after taking a nasty shot in the second half that caused him to leave the game bleeding with a towel on his face. It might be a broken nose, so do not be surprised to see him rocking the old fashioned Rip Hamilton face mask the next time we see him.
- It was interesting that after somewhat of a breakout game the other night, Colin Castleton did not play.
- All of the sudden, this looks like a basketball team that has a real shot at grabbing as high as a four seed in the NCAA Tournament after their postseason hopes were looking slim a few short weeks ago. They have a chance to pad the resume with home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska coming up and if they could find a way to split the road games at Ohio State and Maryland, it seems like they could bottom out around a six or seven-seed if they take care of business.
Michigan now has five days off before returning to action on Thursday night at Crisler Arena against Wisconsin. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be shown on ESPN2.