Games like that one showcase why college basketball is such a beautiful sport.
In what felt like a tournament game, the Michigan Wolverines kept it closed with the fourth-ranked Purdue Boilermakers, but could not leave Mackey Arena victorious, losing 82-76.
While it’s never a good thing for your ninth loss of the season to come in the first week of February, Michigan showed some fight that has been hard to come by in so many losses this year.
Here are some takeaways from the loss.
Purdue’s offense is incredible, but Michigan was able to keep up
So many times this season, we’ve seen the Michigan offense look stagnant and struggle to find open looks. Going into this game in West Lafayette, after barely beating Nebraska, I’m sure many Michigan fans didn’t have a lot of faith in the Wolverines on the road.
Purdue flexed its offensive muscles early and often in this one, with Jaden Ivey leading the way with 23 points while adding a few clips to the highlight reel, Zach Edey and Trevion Williams getting buckets inside, and the Boilermaker role players all making key plays to get the crowd going.
For the majority of this game Purdue looked like a Final Four team, which makes it even more impressive Michigan was able to hang around. It helped the Wolverines immensely they were able to consistently make threes, converting on 44% of their long balls and finding a way to make one every time it looked like Purdue was going to make this a blowout.
Hunter Dickinson had a masterful performance, Eli Brooks and DeVante’ Jones were able to make some key shots and after struggling to get into the flow of the game in that first half, Caleb Houstan really got comfortable in that second half to keep the Wolverines within striking distance.
Michigan finally got some decent contributions from the bench too, with Terrance Williams II, Brandon Johns Jr. and Kobe Bufkin all scoring in their first few minutes of the game and showing no fear in a tough road environment.
While the Wolverines struggled with pick-and-roll defense and gave up a few Purdue runs, they played solid enough on defense to keep things close, and that full court pressure they used late in the second half (shoutout Jace Howard for bringing the energy at the front of that) helped them almost steal that game at the end.
Dickinson is a bonafide star and his draft stock is rising
Dickinson had 28 points with only one made jump hook and two free throws. Let’s be honest, you and I never thought we’d be seeing that one year ago today.
Hunter Dickinson is FEELING IT #GoBlue— BetFTW (@Bet_ForTheWin) February 5, 2022
He was on fire from deep, making not only threes, but also converting on some nice midrange shots and even showcasing a nice fall-away shot in the post to keep Purdue guessing.
The best part about his outside shooting was that his makes always came when Michigan needed it most; his first three came after a pair of Ivey dunks that could have kickstarted a blowout victory for the Boilermakers.
NBA teams told Dickinson this summer he had to get more versatile offensively, had to improve defensively and had to get a more reliable outside shot. He had the outside shooting and versatility in this one, and his steady defensive presence without fouling near the rim was crucial for the Wolverines.
Star players show out in high-stress games like this, and it’s not crazy to say Dickinson was the best player on the floor in this one. He’s the reason why Michigan can win big games, and if Michigan somehow makes the tournament this season, it will be because of its All-American in the middle.
Michigan showed a resiliency we haven’t seen much this season
We’ve seen it too many times this season; a team goes on a big run and gets all the momentum while Michigan is unable to answer, turning a win into a double-digit loss in a matter of minutes.
The way Purdue got rolling on offense so quickly, this game had all the makings of a potential blowout. It could have gotten ugly after Edey’s alley-oop dunk that made it 26-17 with nine minutes to play in the first half. It could have gotten ugly after Ivey’s back-to-back dunks a few minutes later to make it 30-20. It could have gotten ugly after a 10-0 Purdue run made it 55-44 with 13 minutes left to play.
Every time Purdue threw a jab, Michigan had an uppercut waiting, responding well to Purdue runs and containing it to short spurts to stay alive.
While they never had the lead, the Wolverines had a puncher’s chance for the entirety of the game, proving they have the talent and the grit to hang with arguably the best team in the Big Ten.
Michigan has three games over a five-day stretch next week, facing Penn State, Purdue again and then Ohio State to close out the week.
If the Wolverines play with the resiliency they played with in this one, it’s not crazy to think they could win all three of those games and regain the momentum they had a few weeks ago.