Quick Recap: The Wolverines, who led by 12 points early, had to overcome a 12-point deficit of their own last night to defeat the Purdue Boilermakers and keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. Tyrone Johnson scored 32 points for Purdue, who fell to the 7-10 in the Big Ten. Michigan, at 12-5, moved to within one game of the Hoosiers for first place in the Big Ten.
Burke to the Rescue Again: After submitting one of his worst 20-minute stretches of play throughout the entire season in the first half, Trey Burke scored 22 points in the 2nd half and propelled Michigan to victory in a tough road environment. Burke was the offensive catalyst for the Wolverines in their 21-8 run during a 7-minute stretch in the second half in which Michigan retook the lead at 61-60 with 4:16 to play. Burke was money from the free throw line down the stretch, going 7-8 in the last minute of the game to ice away the victory. His performance only strengthened an already compelling Big Ten and National player of the year resume.
Mental Lapses on Defense Continue: Ten minutes into the first half, the Wolverines, leading 21-9, looked like they were going to cruise to a blowout victory, while Purdue looked erratic on offense. Suddenly, Michigan seemed to relax their focus on defense, a constant theme on the road as of late, and Purdue responded with 4 three-pointers and a 34-30 lead to close the half. Michigan lost their toughness near the basket, got lazy closing out on jump shooters and struggled to secure defensive rebounds. Even though Michigan eventually made up for it on the offensive end, their weak defensive trends continued into the second half and will continue to plague the Wolverines and limit their ceiling in March if they do not get tougher and more committed to their defensive game-plan.
Stauskas Back Strong: Nik Stauskas showed no ill effects of the elbow he took to the face against Michigan State that sidelined him for most of the game on Sunday. He came out aggressive on offense, notching 17 points, including two 2 three-pointers, along with 8 trips to the free throw, 7 of which he converted. His confidence is essential to opening up Michigan’s offense and will be pivotal for the Wolverines to make a deep run in March.
Big Picture: Despite the erratic rollercoaster of a game, it was nice to see Michigan hold their composure facing adversity on the road. This would have been a crushing and mentally debilitating defeat at this point in the season. The Wolverines played with a little extra chip on their shoulder, looking like a team in desperate search for a championship. They have the opportunity to go out there and seal one on their home court on Sunday against Indiana. There’s really not much more that any Michigan fan could ask for.