Second-Half Collapse Costs Boilers In Ann Arbor
After the under-4 timeout, AJ Hammons hit a basket to put Purdue up 56-50. The Boilers would not score again, as Michigan ran off the game's final 11 points to knock off the Good Guys, 61-56, and put to rest any remaining hopes that this team is capable of making a long postseason run.
Games like these are important ones for analytical types like me because they underscore how important it is to understand the part of the game outside the box score. Would you expect a typical top-20 team to hold off a top-50 team on the road in those circumstances? Probably. (I can't find an NCAA calculator online, and the NBA one I found doesn't take home court into account. We'll see kenpom's chart in a few hours.) Would you expect a Matt Painter team to hold off a John Beilein team? Thank you, Mr. Burke, but that's a rhetorical question, no need to answer, I think we all know where you stand on that one. (In fairness, I should point out that at the time of the Missouri stuff, I supported efforts to keep Painter here.)
Caris LeVert returned, but played sparingly and was ineffective. Derrick Walton was ice cold, just 1 of 10 from the field and 0 of 6 from three. Duncan Robinson was shut down by a trio of Boilers, taking just 4 shots and scoring just 4 points. Michigan had exactly one player in double figures. Purdue posted single-digit turnovers on the road for the first time this season. Michigan shot .364 from the field and .250 from three. And Purdue still couldn't pull it off.
Purdue expected to dominate the paint like they did in Mackey in January, but instead their bigs combined to shoot just .500 from the floor - and much of that was from Caleb Swanigan, who scored a team-high 14 points and nailed both of the threes he took. Isaac Haas had a better game for a change, but still missed several shots moving to his left. (Maybe it would help to put Cline or Mathias on that side instead of expecting Haas to back down anyone he faces when he clearly can't go to his left.) AJ was surprisingly ineffective, with just 10 points on 13 shot equivalents, 4 boards, 3 blocks, and 3 turnovers. Dakota Mathias didn't take a shot. The Captain was just 1 for 5 himself. Ryan Cline was the only real outside threat, but even he missed half his shots - as J and I noted during the game, there's a huge difference in effectiveness between being square to the rim and being in motion.
Despite having just 9 turnovers, Purdue was still -3 in that category. They were outrebounded 34-33, partly because they forced a bunch of poor shots and partly because they were constantly out of position, particularly at Michigan's end: UM came into the game 320th in OReb%, Purdue came in 5th in preventing offensive boards, and yet.
If you didn't see the game, that's OK, because it wasn't that different than pretty much every conference game the Boilers have played this season: stretches of good play followed by poor play, good shots followed by bad possessions, good defense followed by open shooters. One thing that did change today was that Purdue clearly identified one of Michigan's two best players and blanketed him: Robinson rarely caught the ball in a position to shoot, and the one time I recall that he did, Davis quickly left his man to cover, forcing Robinson to pass. If Purdue's strategy was to trade layups and open threes for open second shots, it worked like a charm.
There was one exception: Zak Irvin. A typical Beilein 4, he has the range that Biggie wants to have, and time and again he caught Swanigan too low, giving Irvin open looks that he drained. His game inside the arc wasn't so successful - 4 for 11 - but 4 for 8 outside the arc made a huge difference, as his teammates were just 1 for 12 from three. Irvin's game-high 22 points were enough to keep Michigan close for that stretch run, and while Walton had only 6 points, all 6 came in the final 3:16, as he and Irvin combined to score the Wolverines' final 11.
The odd thing about this game is that Purdue did make adjustments early on. Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored five points on Michigan's first five possessions, but then hit just one basket the rest of the game. Robinson's only shot in the offense came in the first two minutes (his other basket was on a putback of a shot AJ blocked). When Hammons was struggling, Haas got more playing time, and the offense went through him again and again, keying a run that put the Boilers up 23-13. (Naturally, Michigan ran off six straight after a timeout.)
But you look at the second half, and it's hard to see what Purdue tried to do to counter Michigan's adjustments. A Cline three put Purdue up 45-41 at 13:20; the Boilers scored 11 points in the remaining minutes. They had just one offensive rebound in that stretch, on a play where Vince Edwards went in to draw contact, didn't get it, got his rebound, went up again, and lost the ball to a Michigan fast break that PJ Thompson stopped with a foul. Edwards had a good game away from the rim - 10 boards (4 offensive), 3 assists - but was just 1 of 8 from the field, and most of those shots looked forced.
Johnny Hill played key defensive minutes, but was a 0 on offense: 0 for 2, 0 assists, 1 turnover (throwing the ball past Davis while Painter was saying something to him; in this case I think Painter deserves the turnover, because you should only be talking to the guy with the ball). With PJ taking just one shot, Purdue again ran an offense with basically four viable shooters; plenty of teams have shredded Michigan's defense this year, but somehow Purdue couldn't manage that, tying Penn State for the fewest points scored in Big 14 play on the Wolverines. Having PGs who aren't offensive threats makes things more difficult, and having a coach who can't figure out endgame strategy makes it even worse.
Painter does deserve credit for Purdue's first possession in the final minute-ish: he called a timeout at 1:04, the Boilers got the ball in to Biggie in the post, Swanigan put up a good shot ... and just missed it. The ball went out of bounds to Michigan, and that was about the end of the good stuff. Down three with 0:16 left, Purdue had no good looks, only managing an off-balance shot from Edwards that Walton rebounded. Why the ball went inside, I don't know ... granted, the Boilers don't have many good outside shooters, but do you really think you can get two possessions there and also stop Michigan from scoring?
UM scored on 3 of their final 4 possessions (before fouling began) - their lone miss was when Mark Donnal took a late three and missed it, but the other possessions were relatively easy conversions. Essentially, with the game on the line, Michigan scored on all but one possession, and Purdue didn't score at all. It's the same old story, same old song and dance, my friends.
Purdue has one gimme left on their schedule, and it's next: Northwestern comes to town on Tuesday. Amazingly, a 20-win team could still end up .500 in Big 14 play; to avoid that, they must beat the Wildcats, and to avoid sliding further down the bracket, they need to win convincingly. It's no sure thing - Northwestern has played a couple of good teams close, losing at Maryland in OT and losing to North Carolina by 11 at a neutral site in November.
Michigan travels to Ohio State for their lone meeting with the Buckeyes - like Purdue, Michigan faces their two big rivals only once each. (THANKS DELANY. So glad you added Rutgers to the conference. Maybe next time you can find a DI program to add. Actually, forget I said that. When you retire, take Rutgers and Maryland with you.) Michigan's worst loss this year is to kenpom-22 UConn; if LeVert continues to improve, they should easily beat OSU, and even if he sits, they can beat the Buckeyes. There is a clear division in the conference between tournament and non-tournament teams, and Ohio State is on the wrong side of it.
Feature image from Purdue Sports