Thursday, January 7, 2016

Michigan 70, Purdue 87: Too Tall

NB: Missed about the first 17 minutes of this one (6 p.m. CT starts, I'm not a fan of you). 

Riding high off of two Big Ten wins by double-digit margins, the Wolverines headed to West Lafayette, where two towers stood.

Despite a career night from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (25 points, 10-of-16), the Wolverines couldn't find that extra gear to make it a one-bucket game in the second half, falling to 12-4 (2-1) on the season.

In addition to facing a tough Purdue team on the road, the Boilermakers roster is one that one that strikes against Michigan's biggest weakness: the interior. Mark Donnal's success in the Illinois and Penn State games was not likely to repeated against Purdue's A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn't, as Donnal scored three points on two attempts in the first half (he finished with 7), and picked up his second foul with just under eight minutes to play in the first half.

And after a somewhat quiet first half, Hammons did Michigan in in the second, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and a quartet of no-sir blocks (4 blocks).

Even so, the Wolverines (once again without Caris LeVert) led 23-19 with 5:32 left in the half.

That is, until Purdue put the pedal to the metal and scored 12 straight, eventually heading into the half up 35-28.

Michigan did an okay job containing Hammons on paper in the first half (6 points, 4 rebounds), and the Boilermakers rebounded "just" 26 percent of their misses (which isn't bad for Michigan given the personnel mismatch).

Purdue's defense, however, was stifling, as it often is. Michigan shot just 32.3 percent from the field in the first half, while Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin went a combined 2-of-9 from the floor.

Given the mismatch inside, this was another classic "can Michigan outshoot its opponent from downtown" game. The Wolverines shot 35.7 percent from three in the first 20 minutes (5-of-14) -- they'd have to be even better in the second to have a chance.

In fact, they were, finishing 40.7 percent for the game, which is pretty good. But it wasn't enough, as Hammons and Co. locked Michigan down when they needed to. Rapheal Davis negated everyone he checked and Hammons blocked or altered a number of forays to the basket.

In the first chunk of the second half, Hammons exploited single coverage on the rare occasion he got it, then deftly found the open man on the outside when Michigan double- or triple-teamed him.

The Boilers extended the lead to 11, at which point it seemed things could get out of hand. But with the aid of Abdur-Rahkman's confident playmaking and an array of tough shots tossed off of the glass with geometrical expertise, the Wolverines stayed in it.

About halfway through the second half, the announcers kept remarking how it didn't feel like a 5-point game ... and really, it didn't.

A key moment late -- Donnal bobbles a pass/gets stripped by Davis going toward the basket, Purdue heads the other way with speed, rotates the ball and Davis splashes a corner triple to up the lead to nine with eight minutes left.

That, however, was just one of several similar sequences in the final 10 minutes. Michigan gets an opening, doesn't take advantage and Purdue makes them pay.

Michigan did begin to trouble the Boilermakers with pressure in the final 10 minutes, pressure which flummoxed Purdue against Iowa, too. It worked, as the Wolverines were able to turn some Purdue turnovers into points.

Every time Michigan got it down to six or seven, however, the Boilers had an answer. And when Hammons hit a triple with about three minutes left to up Purdue's lead to 16 -- making another 12-0 run for Purdue -- that was all she wrote.

Michigan was never able to crack through that 5-point deficit marker, in a game that was simultaneously, paradoxically, not as close it looks on paper, yet closer than it looks on paper.

With LeVert out and this being a road game against a pretty good team, I don't think anyone expected a win tonight. But Michigan can't use that as an excuse, particularly with upcoming matchups against Maryland and at Iowa. Michigan needs to rack up some quality wins (especially on the road) -- the next two games will provide that opportunity.

Michigan will hope that LeVert gets better soon, but, more importantly, it'll need players not named Abdur-Rahkman to bring it, too.

Fortunately for John Beilein and Co., they won't have to face that Purdue frontcourt again until Feb. 13.

No comments:

Post a Comment