Though the Michigan Wolverines roared out of the gate on Thursday night and made a valiant end-game push, the absence of Jett Howard proved to be too much to overcome as the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers left Ann Arbor with a 75-70 victory.
Here’s how the game broke down for Michigan:
If the Wolverines entered this game outclassed on paper, they weren’t going to hear it. In a high octane start, Michigan found themselves up by as much as six in the early goings, before the Boilermakers found a groove and tied things back up in rapid succession.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the gas seemed to only go so far as the 15-minute mark, as the shots stopped falling for Michigan’s shooters while the defense seemed to ease up against center Zach Edey. In just a handful of possessions, Purdue seized control — pushing their lead to nine headed into the final media timeout. While the Boilermakers’ lead swelled to as much as 11, the Wolverines were able to staunch the bleeding heading into the locker room with a pair of solid possessions, trimming the halftime margin to 41-35.
Statistically, Hunter Dickinson led the team in both points and rebounds, notching 14 and 5 respectively.
While Michigan put up a fight to start the second half, it did little to shift the tide back in their favor as Purdue entered the first media timeout with a 9-point lead. That feeling of ‘close but just not enough’ permeated through much of the first ten minutes; while Kobe Bufkin and Jace Howard had a monumental three-pointer and highlight worthy driving layup respectively, the net gain on both plays was a slim two points due to mistakes on the other half of the floor.
For much of the half, the Wolverines just couldn’t find a string of possessions that worked to their favor, as the Boilermakers’ lead was generally stuck in a margin hovering around double digits. Michigan made themselves plenty of chances on the offensive side of the ball, mainly off a lights out second half performance by Kobe Bufkin, but the all-too familiar defensive woes consistently stopped momentum just as it seemed to build.
Though the Wolverines brought the score as close as three points with seconds left on the clock, Purdue held on through the final buzzer and left the floor with a victory. Statistically, Dickinson finished the game as he started it, recording a team-leading 21 points and 7 boards.
The Wolverines travel to Happy Valley on Sunday, Jan. 29 to complete the series against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Tip-off is scheduled for noon on Big Ten Network.