The Michigan Wolverines traveled to Purdue on Friday evening to play a game that may have been up in the air in the hours leading up to tipoff but were unfazed by the challenge. They walked out of Mackey Arena with a 70-53 win to move to 13-1 on the season and 8-1 in Big Ten play.
There was speculation on Friday that Purdue was dealing with a COVID-19 situation within the program, which was later confirmed via the announcement that Boilermakers guard Sasha Stefanovic tested positive this week and was out for the game. According to a pregame report from Brendan Quinn of The Athletic, Purdue officials were confident that there were no high-risk contacts and that Stefanovic had not been around anyone since Tuesday.
Some more on this. I'm also told Michigan was made aware of Purdue's positive test before traveling. U-M didn't depart Ann Arbor until learning Purdue's remaining roster tested negative and then requested Purdue run PCR tests on everyone else twice before tonight's game.— Brendan Quinn (@BFQuinn) January 23, 2021
So, game on.
It was an Isaiah Livers night for the Wolverines, as he led all scorers with 22 points.
The absence of Stefanovic for Purdue was huge, as he is one of the best pure shooters in the Big Ten. However, Michigan did not feel sorry for their opponent and had another banner defensive performance. They held Purdue to 31 percent from the floor on the night and stopped a team that was riding a four-game winning streak in its tracks. Pun absolutely intended.
Livers was the story of the night and he continues to not-so-quietly put up consistently strong performances for this Michigan offense. That helps on a night when Franz Wagner (8 points, 2-of-10 shooting) was not at his best.
Hunter Dickinson has struggled for the last few games and had a tough matchup against Trevion Williams (14 points, 6-of-19 shooting), but still made some timely plays here and there. His recent struggles have been offset by the Wolverines getting consistent quality minutes from Brandon Johns and Austin Davis.
Michigan’s defense continues to take steps forward with each contest, especially from the three-point line. We figured that they would struggle without Stefanovic on the floor, but 2-for-12 from beyond the arc is still an impressive mark to hold them to on that end of the floor. Overall, it was a sloppy night for both teams, but given some of the uncertainty in the lead-up, this is a good win for Michigan. Now, you just pray there are no lingering effects and everyone stays healthy.
Next up for Michigan is a rescheduled game against Penn State on Wednesday in Happy Valley. The matchup was originally set for Jan. 9 before the Nittany Lions had to pause basketball activities due to COVID-19 within the program.