If you went to bed early Thursday night, you missed a pretty entertaining basketball game. Despite a solid start and a late push, Michigan came up short against Purdue, losing at home, 75-70.
Purdue is, quite literally, the best team in the country. The Boilermakers are ranked No. 1 in the country, earning the top spot back from Houston after four consecutive weeks at No. 1 from Dec. 12 to Jan. 11. Entering this game, their sole loss was to a very good Rutgers team at home. Considering they’re success, they’re currently projected to be the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
You might remember last season, Michigan managed to beat Purdue at home, 82-58, in a game where Hunter Dickinson, Eli Brooks and Caleb Houstan combined to make 12-of-16 threes. That win over a Purdue team that was ranked No. 3 at the time was a big reason why Michigan was barely able to earn an at-large tournament bid.
The Wolverines didn’t get the big home win they were looking for this year, but they played pretty well against the top team in the country. It’s still a loss, but there’s a lot of positives to take away from it.
A solid start for the Wolverines
Michigan got off to ROUGH starts in the last two games, a loss to Maryland and an ugly win to Minnesota. Thankfully against the No. 1 team in the country, the Wolverines got off to a solid one.
They were up 13-10 at the first TV timeout of the first half and played with solid energy over the first eight game minutes.
That solid start is crucial for a young squad that can’t afford to lose many more conference games. Michigan was playing fast, pressing a little bit, and Dickinson’s decent start (eight points in the first four minutes, 14 at the half, 21 points and seven rebounds in the game) gave fans a reason to hope.
Purdue looked dominant in a first-half run, but Michigan responded well
After that solid start, we saw the Boilermakers assert their dominance, going on a 15-0 run that spanned over five game minutes.
Michigan didn’t guard Purdue well at all over that stretch, but eventually stopped the bleeding and closed the half well. As he has all season long, Kobe Bufkin made a timely layup on a gutsy drive before Dickinson had five points to cut the Purdue lead to just six at the half.
That run could have split this game wide open; props to the Wolverines for responding well.
Michigan just couldn’t get enough stops
Michigan cut the lead to three in the final seconds thanks to a miracle three from Joey Baker that banked in, but for the majority of the second half, Purdue held a 8-12-point lead that was too big to overcome.
Purdue didn’t shoot the lights out by any means — the Boilermakers shot 54 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three — but they were pretty efficient, and almost always had an answer every time Michigan tried to grab momentum back.
Zach Edey is arguably the best big man in basketball, and he was dominant, scoring 19 points and grabbing nine boards. Fletcher Loyer also contributed 17 points, and the Boilermaker bench outscored the Wolverines’ bench pretty handily (23-9).
The Wolverines didn’t have many issues scoring in this one, but they couldn’t pull off the upset because they couldn’t reliably get stops against Purdue.
Kobe Bufkin played his butt off
It feels like I’ve written a version of this takeaway like 12 times already this season, but when the Wolverines needed a bucket, like a good neighbor, Bufkin was there.
He had a solid outing, scoring 16 points while grabbing four boards and dishing two assists. Eleven of his points came in the second half, as he was a big reason why the Wolverines were able to hang around.
Michigan needed a big game from the sophomore guard — especially with Jett Howard sidelined with his ankle injury — and he delivered. Michigan is going to need him to keep playing this well to keep its dwindling March Madness hopes alive.
Michigan has opportunities to get Quad 1 wins in the next three games. The Wolverines have road games against Penn State (Jan. 29) and Northwestern (Feb. 2) before heading back home to face Ohio State (Feb. 5).