Haas Ices the Wolverines as Purdue Beats Michigan, 70-69
Feature image from the AP’s Tony Ding.
Starters: PJ Thompson, Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, Vince(nt) Edwards, Isaac Haas
Finishers: PJ Thompson, Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, Vince(nt) Edwards, ISAAC HAAS’ FREE THROW SHOOTING
Road games against tourney-bound, well-coached Big Ten teams are really, really tough to bank. That alone makes Purdue’s 70-69 win at Michigan so much sweeter.
Purdue entered this game riding an 11-game, 47-day winning streak, notching their first top 5 AP ranking since February 2010, when absolutely nothing notable happened that should be acknowledged at this moment.
Every Boilermaker fan was ecstatic, but reflexively nervous. This Purdue team is very good, has a real shot at back-to-back B10 titles, and should end up a 2 or 3 seed by the time March Madness rolls around. But top 5, after losing a consensus All American? Purdue’s resume was undoubtedly there, especially after a wild first week of 2018 atop the rankings.
But having that 5 next to your name officially makes you the hunted. Every top 5 team becomes the game of the year for opposing squads, the game every crowd circles for maximal rowdiness. Again – winning a road game as the hunted in this conference, against a very well-coached team, is tough as nails. Just ask Michigan State. We were about to see whether this Purdue team could really stand that immense pressure, against John Beilein’s Michigan Wolverines, at a hostile Crisler Center.
Purdue started with the usual Haas-centric offensive plan, with the Big Ent scoring 6 of Purdue’s first 11 points. But Michigan was hitting right back with a familiar foe: Moe Wagner, who always seems to have breakout games against Purdue. Wagner scored 7 of the Wolverine’s first 9 points, giving me extreme PTSD.
Enter: Matt Haarms, Purdue’s very own handy dandy Yung Wagner. Haarms stopped the Wagner barrage, and Mo was limited to only two more first-half points.
Dakota Mathias and Carsen Edwards were stellar early in the game, showcasing Purdue’s versatile wing talent driving their #5 ranking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mathias as aggressive and trigger-happy as he was during tonight’s first half (14 points on 5/7 shooting, 4/6 threes in 18 minutes). Carsen’s aggressiveness when Purdue’s offense stagnates is a perfect complement to the shooters, going 4/9 for 10 points in the first half.
But Michigan kept scoring off every offensive rebound, keeping the Purdue lead from swelling to 20. Everyone who’s ever watched a Beilein Michigan team in Ann Arbor knew what was coming – the Wolverines got ultra-aggressive on the glass and in the paint, the visiting bench’s off-ball movement stagnated, and a combination of dumb luck (in this case, a Jordan Poole banked three) and chip-chip-chipping away cut Purdue’s lead to 2.
But Mathias kept gunning, Carsen kept driving, and Purdue ended the first half with a 39-32 lead. It wasn’t ideal, considering Purdue was shooting 52% from the field and 70% from three. But in a Big Ten road game against a very solid Michigan, it’s a half we’d all take.
Purdue opened the second half looking to pull away, with Vince’s debut appearance and quick PJ and Haas buckets opening a 14-point lead. But poor weakside defensive recovery continued into the heart of the second half, and this time Michigan took advantage.
The Wolverines struck fire from three, largely due to Purdue’s severe defensive lapses. Michigan shot 7/12 from three in the second half, following a 3/10 first half, and wrenched control of the game. Mathias’ aggression had vanished (and he split his face open for the second time this season), Haas went cold, and Vince was floating in-and-out.
Two players kept Purdue in the game during this stretch: the perfect Carsen Edwards, and…Nojel Eastern.
Carsen was his normal self, drilling absolutely stupid threes to bail out Purdue’s ice-cold offense. But the freshman point-forward had a mini-breakout tonight. Michigan was threatening to blow the game wide open if they took the lead, but (with 9 minutes left to play) Nojel scored off back-to-back offensive rebounds that kept Purdue’s lead hanging by a thread.
Despite his efforts, Michigan finally took their first lead of the game with 5 minutes left to play, after back-to-back threes from Zavier Simpson (after, you’ll never believe it, Haas switching on the ball). Carsen and Vince (finally!) answered with massive threes of their own, and the game was all tied up at a nice 69 apiece with 2:30 left to play.
Games like this make you appreciate the boring Rutgers blowout wins.
The game was over when…
…Michigan had the ball with 1 minute left, took a timeout, and watched one of the best out-of-bounds playcallers in John Beilein draw up an extremely out-of-character isolation three from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Vince Edwards came up with the massive rebound, only for Carsen to miss a floater.
The Wolverines had the ball, the shot clock was off, the game was tied. If momentum exists, it was all with Michigan.
Charles Matthews ended up with the ball, drove to the hoop, and Mathias knocked the ball out of bounds. After a stress-filled 6 minute review, involving roughly five dozen different frame-by-frame replay angles, Purdue ended up with the ball and 4 seconds.
Michigan gave their last foul to give, with Purdue inbounding at halfcourt. Of course, when you have a 7’2” Ent inside that shoots 70% from the foul line, you’re gonna immediately go inside. Sure enough, Haas got the ball, drew the foul (yes, Michigan fans, it was a foul), and sunk a free throw to put Purdue ahead by one.
So, when was the game over? When Matthews’ buzzer-beating heave barely rimmed out, and we all started breathing again.
Player of the Game:
Purdue won the game after Isaac Haas (17 points on 7/14 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) hit a game-winning free throw. Purdue stayed in the game during offensive lulls because Carsen Edwards (19 points on 7/14 shooting, 4/6 from three) was relentless.
But Purdue halted a dangerous Wolverine run after Nojel Eastern scored on two straight putbacks after bad isolation shots, and rightfully earned second half minutes over a great PJ Thompson. Nojel earns tonight’s Player of the Game, because the freshman finally showed what coaches have been seeing behind the scenes.
- Having a 7-footer that shoots 70%+ from the free throw line. I’ve said it before – free throw reliability is the best part of Isaac Haas’ game, and it won the game for Purdue tonight.
- Running, gunning first half Dakota Mathias. When Dakota is gunning without a conscience, it’s super fun to watch Purdue. He also had a fresh fade tonight, which I fully support.
- Lockdown defensive ace Dakota Mathias. Abdur-Rahkman finished with only 7 points on 3/9 shooting, and he had Mathias and Nojel (Ed. note: Carsen, not Nojel, split time on MAAR) on him most of the night. I’ve always said he was the best defensive player in the Big Ten. Don’t bother to look at my archives or listen to podcasts or ask my friends or search my tweets. Dakota is a fantastic defensive player. I’ve always said this.
- Carsen Edwards attacking the basket, creating a shot when Purdue’s threes aren’t falling. Carsen adds a completely different dimension to a dangerous offensive Purdue team.
- Nojel’s emergence. Purdue’s biggest loss next year might be at the point guard position (shoutout to PJ’s steadiness), and Nojel’s growth will help mitigate that drop-off. Great defense, huge putbacks, and 5 rebounds in 12 minutes in a hostile environment is the way to start.
- Grady Eifert had two stretches of real playing time, grabbed 4 rebounds in 7 minutes of play, and was pretty solid against a tough team.
- Quiet second half Dakota Mathias, and MIA Vince Edwards. Purdue can’t win if both of those wings go cold for entire games at a time, and thankfully Purdue had one half of awesome Dakota and a very solid final 3 minutes from Vince to seal the win. But I’ve been preaching Vince’s NBA bonafides all year, and disappearances (and isolation shots) like tonight can’t happen.
- Offensive movement stagnating when whistles aren’t being blown. Road games in the B10 will always bring some tough refereeing, and Purdue (minus Carsen) has to know how to stay aggressive through those lulls.
- Isaac Haas’ rebounding. I love the big man, but he can’t seem to use his height and size to secure rebounds over smaller forwards. That’s a real weakness for this team, even though Vince and Nojel are doing their best to help.
- Not a great Ryan Cline night.
Pictures of the Night:
Tweet(s) of the night: