Early in the game, Michigan looked over-matched by #5 Purdue. They found themselves in a 14 point deficit, but give the Wolverines credit, because they would not quit. It took a couple runs, but Michigan was able to pull all the way back, and even take a brief lead in the last few minutes of the game. However, with seconds left, Purdue would get a free throw from Isaac Haas that would give the Boilermakers a 70-69 win at Crisler Center. The loss drops Michigan to 14-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten.

Michigan is a tournament team

Michigan is undefeated at home no longer, but they showed that no matter the opponent, they can hang with anyone at home. Purdue came out on fire from three, making seven of their ten attempts in the first half. And that was only when Haas wasn’t busy laying it in around the rim. Then, Michigan woke up from behind the arc in the second half. Charles Matthews, Isaiah Livers, and Zavier Simpson would all score multiple three pointers in the second half during the Wolverines’ comeback attempt.

Yes, Michigan lost, but Purdue is a top five team in the nation, maybe better, and Michigan almost took them down after being outclassed for most of the first half. If the out of bounds call hadn’t been overturned, Coach Beilein said that he had a good feeling they were going to be the ones to win the game within the last few seconds. At least we saw that the Wolverines continue to fight no matter the score. If the Maize and Blue continue to play at the level they have been, they will pile up plenty more wins over the next few months and find themselves right back in the NCAA Tournament.

Next man up

Entering the season, Charles Matthews and Moe Wagner were expected to be Michigan’s top players. Yes, they have performed well, but it is interesting to see how balanced the scoring has been for the Wolverines in Big Ten play. A new player seems to step up every game. Tonight, it was Simpson who would be the surprise leader, scoring 15 points, while adding 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Matthews would finish with 14 points and 7 rebounds and Wagner had 11 points and 6 boards.

And then we have the play of the freshmen: Livers and Jordan Poole. The two combined for 18 points combined and continue to be critical pieces for Michigan off the bench. Beilein said that Livers did a tremendous job on Edwards and that was one of the reasons he played for almost thirty minutes in tonight’s game. It was a great matchup to see the freshman go head-to-head with Purdue’s senior. Both Michigan players continue to see more and more playing time as they get more comfortable with the scheme and their coach has more confidence in them.

Michigan still has a defensive weakness

The Wolverines have been a much better defensive teams this year, but they still have one defensive deficiency that Purdue was able to exploit tonight. It is quite obvious time and again, that Wagner is not able to contain certain big men down low. Haas might be the best example of this, but other players have taken advantage of him. When opponents dump the ball down and get themselves positioned deep in the paint, Wagner has a hard time contesting anything. He usually keeps from fouling, but gives up too many baskets.

One of the things Beilein likes to do when this is the case is double-team the opposing player when they get the ball. It was very hard to do today, since Purdue is one of the best three point shooting teams in the nation. If Haas gets double-teamed, he can kick it out to one of their shooters who is open. Normally, Michigan is one of the best teams in the nation in avoiding giving up three point baskets, but tonight Purdue hit tough shots which forced players to stay home on their man. Michigan had to find the balance tonight, which they did for much of the second half. Additionally, Wagner helps himself by being a threat to score from behind the arc. Purdue’s coach, Matt Painter, started switching their back up, Matt Haarns in on Wagner, since Haas is not the most mobile on defense.

Now, Michigan needs to shrug off this heartbreaking loss, because they have another big test against Michigan State on Saturday at noon. The Spartans are a high-powered offensive team, and Nick Ward could be another problem around the rim. If Michigan stays composed like they did tonight, and disciplined on the defensive end, there’s no reason they can’t hang with another top team in the nation.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


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