WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Sixteen days after losing to Purdue under a cloud of controversy, Michigan arrived in West Lafayette to deepen their Big Ten championship credentials.
Purdue forward Vincent Edwards is stopped by Michigan's Duncan Robinson, right, and Moritz Wagner during Thursday's Big Ten game at Purdue.
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Instead, the Boilermakers’ 92-88 victory in an all-time shootout enhanced their standing as one of the nation’s best teams. Tombstone, Ariz., would have been a more apt venue than a small northwest Indiana outpost. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they blinked first at the O.K. Corral.
“They were just too good for us tonight,” Michigan coach John Beilein said about Purdue.
In front of a raucous Mackey Arena crowd, the third-ranked Boilermakers (20-2, 9-0) pummeled No. 25 Michigan (17-6, 6-4) into submission with equal parts brawn and finesse. Purdue scored 38 points in the paint and the second-best 3-point shooting team in the country was 11 of 20 from beyond the arc.
“You can’t win a game without defense, and they scored 92 points on us today,” Michigan junior forward Mortiz Wagner. “No matter how many shots we made, we have to do better defensively.”
Offense wasn’t a problem for Michigan, which shot 60 percent from the field and made 13 3-pointers. Defense, however, was optional — for both teams.
The second half provided an explosive brand of basketball, as the teams combined to miss just seven of their first 32 shots. In the first 12 minutes, which unfolded like a prize fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Michigan and Purdue traded punches in the form of 3-pointers.
The Wolverines opened the second half 13 of 17 from the field and 6 of 8 from long range. Purdue was 12 of 15 and 5 of 6. Michigan made two-thirds of its shots in the half. The Boilermakers shot merely 62.5 percent from the field and made 5 of 9 3s.
“This is what you come to a Big Ten school to play basketball for, this environment, atmosphere and to be able to play on this stage,” said Purdue senior forward Vincent Edwards, who scored a game-high 30 points. “That second half was a dream to play basketball in.”
Michigan led 68-65 with just over nine minutes left before a decisive 14-2 Purdue run changed the complexion of the game. Michigan never had the ball down one possession the final eight minutes on a night that featured 24 lead changes.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored a career-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and six 3s. Zavier Simpson had 16 points and five assists but missed two critical late free throws, Wagner had 15 points, and Charles Matthews had 10 points and six assists.
The loss essentially ends Michigan’s chances of winning the Big Ten. It has four losses with eight games remaining, and the Wolverines only play one of the top three teams in the standings again.
“We have a long way to go in this season,” Beilein said. “We’re gonna have to win a lot more games and get better. The only way we can do that is if we continue to practice and self-correct some of the habits we have.”
Both teams proved to be the other’s kryptonite.
Entering Thursday, Michigan was only allowing six made 3s per game. Purdue had 11. The Boilermakers owned the Big Ten’s top defense, holding opponents to 0.92 points per possession and 31.6 percent shooting. Michigan scored 1.37 points per possession and shot 60 percent.
“Both teams didn’t really have an answer for stopping the other team,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
The Wolverines had no response for the 7-foot-2 Haas, an Ivan Drago lookalike in basketball shoes. In the first half, Haas terrorized UM with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. And he didn’t play the final four minutes after picking up his second foul. Despite his appearance on the bench, Purdue extended its lead to 41-36 at halftime.
“You can’t guard him in the post,” Beilein said of Haas, who finished with 24 points. “I think the only way you can guard him is with a twin brother.”
After losing twice in the Battle 4 Atlantis in The Bahamas over Thanksgiving, Purdue fell out of the Associated Press top 25. The Boilermakers haven’t lost since, winning a school-record tying 16 consecutive games. They have not lost on U.S. soil all season.
“I believe we’re the best team in the nation,” Haas said, “and I just want to show everybody.”
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