Beating UM didn't take heroics from a guy who no one had heard about or anything too out-of-the-ordinary. But, Purdue kind of got back to its roots, at least a bit, on the way to beating the Manny Harris-less Wolverines.
Without Harris, Michigan looked uninspired and out of sync early in the game, except DeShawn Sims, who scored the first 13 points for the Wolverines. Sims was a one-man wrecking crew as he flashed a barrage of weapons in his offensive arsenal...and JJ seemingly was just there to watch. Johnson looked a half step slow as Sims blew by him, out-muscled him and simply out-played him.
I remarked to my brothers that it almost seemed that JJ had low blood sugar or something because he simply didn't seem to be playing at his highest level, especially defensively. And while JJ had little answer for Sims' effort, the Ostrich fared quite well v. UM's 8th-year Senior. Hummel gives up about 40 pounds to Sims, but he stood his ground very well on multiple occasions as Sims tried to pull Michigan back into the game in the second half.
Purdue did a lot well, at times in the game, and honestly looked flat-out great for stretches during the game. But, our Boilers also had scoring droughts in which it seemed that nothing worked...but one of the problems we've seen quite a few times this season snapped at Matty's backside once again- poor bench output. Granted, Painter at one point had a line-up of guys who simply have little chance of scoring many points- Smith, Byrd, Hart, Kramer and JJ. UM's zone collapsed on Johnson and Purdue not only didn't have many options, but kinda looked like little more than a passing drill in practice. Plus, UM's press gave Purdue some problems, predictably, but, UM wasn't able to stick with the press as it seemed like the effort was tiring out the young Wolverines.
It by no means was a pretty victory, but there were some good things sprinkled throughout this one. First off, while JJ struggled defensively, he had a solid game...but his rebounding needs to be in the double-digits for Purdue to do the things it wants to as a team. The Ostrich didn't make a ton of noise offensively, but his defense and rebounding kept the Purdue maching humming during the hot streak that ended the first half and started the second. Smooge created a ton of opportunities for himself by fighting through double-teams and squaring his shoulders after contact. And even more impressive was the way he and others found the open man. Purdue did what they couldn't do v. aOSU- draw the double team and exploit the soft spot on the zone. Defensively, he was great once again as he had three steals and seemed to recognize UM's offense before the plays completely unfolded. I also liked what I saw from Hart once again- sure, he didn't wow us with offense, but he surely wasn't detrimental as he relieved the starters...and his play helped the pace of Purdue greatly. I don't think that can be said for all of Purdue's bench players.
And speaking of pace and quickness, that's what really made the difference in the game, to me. Purdue's overall pace for about 15 minutes was simply too fast for Michigan. They got to loose balls faster, closed down passing lanes and made cuts to the basket that were just short of amazing. During the three-game losing streak, we simply didn't see any of that pace from our Boilers.
I got to see this one from the lower level in Mackey, so I was blessed enough to see some details that are sometimes missed on TV. Details like Smooge getting his jersey tugged on twice during a fast break and having no foul called. Things like JJ not being given a chance to land as he went up for lobs from the exterior...but once again, the officials swallowing their whistles. Zelton Steed seemed to be around the blown calls time and time again...and over-shadowed the King of noticeable officials, Ed Hightower. But as I always say, if you leave the game within reach, the officials can play a major role. But thankfully, a few sizable runs made the poor officiating unimportant.
Purdue won by 10, but in the 69-59 victory, Purdue kept Michigan under 60 points and even with a still-hobbled Chris Kramer were able to remind us why this team was a top-5 club just a short time ago. That said, I look for a better effort in the next few games as Matty's boys start to hone in on the stretch run of the season.
Next up, Wisconsin in Mackey in 5 days.