There's too much from this tournament run to cram into one GIFs post, so I'm splitting it into two parts; today's covers the Illinois and Purdue games. The glut of quality GIFs is due in no small part to Fred Wright-Jones, who emerged over the tournament as the heir apparent to Andrew Dakich's role as King of the Bench Mob. You can see him above mirroring Zak Irvin's dunk from the end of the bench. There's much more where that came from.
[Hit THE JUMP for the best moments from the Illinois and Purdue wins.]
Now for a cheer they are here, triumphant. [Paul Sherman]
I'm still not sure how that happened.
Almost everything that went right for Michigan in their regular-season win over Purdue went wrong today. Moe Wagner didn't make a shot from the field and spent most of the game on the bench with foul trouble. John Beilein got so frustrated with the officiating that he picked up a rare technical. Derrick Walton had his worst game of the last month or so. The Wolverines had more than twice as many turnovers (13) as assists (six) or made three-pointers (also six, on 25 attempts). Isaac Haas brutalized Michigan's big men. The clock operator Spartan Bob'd Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman out of a potential game-winning steal and layup at the end of regulation. Purdue even hit a buzzer-beating halfcourt heave, because after all, this is the Big Ten Tournament.
Somehow, they persevered. DJ Wilson made up for Wagner's extended absence by scoring 18 of his game-high 26 in the first half, taking advantage of Purdue's big men defending in space like Wagner did the first time around. Zak Irvin alternated great and awful possessions but came up huge down the stretch, tying the game on a layup with 4.2 seconds remaining in regulation. He got to the basket twice more for the only field goals either team made in the overtime session until a desperate Purdue heave with two seconds remaining. Irvin finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and his defense was once again a huge positive.
DJ Wilson was on his game. The arena was on brand. [Sherman]
Haas and Swanigan feasted on the interior, especially the former, who went 8-for-10 from the field to net 17 points in just 15 minutes. Swanigan made 5-of-10 twos, dished out five assists, and pulled down 13 rebounds; he also missed all three shots from beyond the arc and committed four turnovers before fouling out in overtime. Michigan overcame their struggles in the paint with excellent perimeter defense. While Purdue shot 42% on threes, they could only get 19 looks, and their primary sharpshooters were shut down; Ryan Cline was 1-for-2 while Dakota Mathias had a rough 1-for-8 performance.
Free throws ended up as the deciding factor. The Boilermakers were 6-for-13; Michigan went 18-for-23. PJ Thompson's miss on the front end of a one-and-one led to Irvin's tying layup at the end of regulation. In overtime, Walton and Duncan Robinson were able to keep the game just out of reach with perfect trips to the line.
With that, Michigan's incredible, unlikely, bizarre week continued. Despite being the eight-seed, they may very well be the Big Ten Tournament favorite from here on out; they're the only team to beat Purdue over the last ten games and they've done it twice. The Wolverines await the winner of Michigan State and Minnesota in the game currently being played on ESPN. They'll have plenty of motivation in the semifinal either way. Getting off the 8/9 seed line would be huge for their hopes of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament; if they didn't accomplish that today, another win might do it.
#25 Michigan (21-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
#14 Purdue (25-6, 14-4)
A Half-Full Arena
|WHEN||Noon ET, Friday|
Purdue -2 (KenPom)
Purdue -2.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Dave Flemming
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: Purdue couldn't hang with Michigan on Senior Day. [Bryan Fuller]
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If you missed it, the Illinois recap is here.
Michigan's normal uniforms may still be on the crashed plane, so it's looking like they'll be outfitted in their practice jerseys again tomorrow:
John Beilein on if Michigan has to continue in the practice uniforms: "We have washers and dryers in Washington D.C. We'll get it done."
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) March 9, 2017
I'm all for wearing these the rest of the tourney regardless of the availability of the regular uniforms.
THE LAST TIME
The lone matchup between these teams in the regular season came on Senior Day at Crisler. The battle of the big men took center stage, and Michigan won it with authority despite an 18-point evening by Caleb Swanigan. Michigan's five-out offense forced Swanigan into an uncomfortable role on defense; Moe Wagner scored 24 points in 27 minutes, going 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Isaac Haas, meanwhile, was forced to sit for most of the game because Michigan could exploit him and Swanigan in space to the point that Purdue was forced into switching on every screen.
Derrick Walton, Duncan Robinson, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also finished in double figures for Michigan. Purdue got a strong boost from freshman wing Carsen Edwards, who was benched heading into the game in favor of Ryan Cline; Edwards scored 18, the only time in the last six games he's posted double-digit points.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||11||PJ Thompson||Jr.||5'10, 185||70||12||130||Not At All|
Very efficient, low-usage PG. Majority of shots are threes. Strong defender.
First matchup: 27 mins, 7 pts (3/4 2P, 0/1 3P), 2 reb, 1 to
|G||14||Ryan Cline||So.||6'5, 190||46||12||120||Not At All|
Just A Shooter™, makes 41% of his threes.
First matchup: 26 mins, 2 pts (1/2 2P, 0/2 3P), 3 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||Jr.||6'4, 200||77||15||125||Not At All|
Three-point sniper is 2nd B1G in eFG%. Good assist rate but has turnover issues.
First machup: 31 mins, 4 pts (2/4 2P, 0/2 3P), 4 reb (1 off), 2 ast, 1 stl
|F||12||Vincent Edwards||Jr.||6'8, 225||71||21||120||Not At All|
Does a bit of everything on offense, good defender.
First matchup: 38 mins, 13 pts (5/9 2P, 0/1 3P), 5 reb (2 off), 3 ast, 1 to, 1 blk, 1 stl
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||So.||6'9, 250||79||28||115||Not At All|
NPOY candidate. Beast in post, three-point range, great rebounder.
First matchup: 31 mins, 18 pts (7/8 2P, 1/3 3P), 5 reb (2 off), 5 to
|C||44||Isaac Haas||Jr.||7'2, 290||49||30||106||Very|
Behemoth. Strong post scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker.
First matchup: 11 mins, 8 pts (4/10 2P), 6 reb (3 off), 1 to
|G||3||Carsen Edwards||Fr.||6'0, 190||58||25||94||No|
Solid outside shooter, poor finisher. Can be turnover-prone.
First matchup: 24 mins, 18 pts (3/8 2P, 4/6 3P), 4 reb (2 off), 1 ast, 2 to, 1 stl
|G||55||Spike Albrecht||Sr.||6'0, 180||25||10||115||Yes*|
Still not right after hip stuff. Tiny usage, only 5-for-24 on threes this year.
First matchup: 12 mins, 0 pts (0/1 3P), 2 ast
*Man, that still hurts to type.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Stopping all of this has proven quite difficult. [All photos: Bryan Fuller]
Generally, opposing coach press conferences after losses are brief and uninformative. After the Moe Wagner-Derrick Walton pick-and-pop obliterated Purdue's defense to the point they had to entirely change strategies, however, Matt Painter went into great detail on the problems posed by Michigan's offense, specifically those that result from facing two big men that can shoot.
To set this up: Purdue started the game with Caleb Swanigan defending Wagner. Michigan exploited the matchup by forcing Swanigan out to the perimeter, usually with high screens. Wagner feasted.
Wagner went 9-for-12 in the first half, hitting 5-of-6 twos and 4-of-6 threes. Michigan fielding a lineup with five viable outside shooting threats wreaked havoc on Purdue's defense and their rotation. 7'2" center Isaac Haas usually plays 20 minutes per game, often pairing with Swanigan to form an imposing frontcourt duo. Here's what happened when Purdue put both big men out there:
If Michigan's big men can't shoot, Swanigan wouldn't be in no-man's land, and Haas would be in position to block Simpson's shot into the tenth row if he manages to get into the paint anyway. The threat of Wilson and Wagner instead opened a cavernous lane for the quick point guard to bolt through.
As a result, Haas played only seven minutes in the first half, and just two with Swanigan also on the court. The adjustment Painter had to make in the second half forced his second-best player off the floor almost entirely:
We just went and switched everything, knocked them out of their [pick-and-pop] action. The downside of that is now you have your bigs guarding their guards and they can break you off the dribble. Then you have to help, now you’ve got to get to their shooters. When you have a good point guard and you have bigs that are skilled that can shoot and spread you out, you have to pick your poison. We can flip it on them, but when you don’t score the ball at the rim—and I thought we had a lot of opportunities for Haas in there, missed dunk, layups, a hook, that he normally makes—if we could’ve made those plays, we could’ve lived with all of it, because we wouldn’t have been out of the game, and now we put them in a bind because they’re eventually going to foul us and get out of the game. But if we can’t keep you in the game because [of defense], that gets hard for us. We just decided at half that we had to switch, and then when Donnal came in the game we could play Isaac [Haas]. But obviously we didn’t play well enough to be able to get back in.
Haas played four second-half minutes, entering the game after Michigan inserted Donnal and exiting at the first stoppage after Beilein lifted Donnal and put DJ Wilson at center. The combination of Wagner and Wilson in Beilein's offense rendered the second-best player on the Big Ten's best team effectively unplayable.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how Michigan took advantage of Purdue's new defensive tack.]
Derrick Walton might be good, you guys.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Purdue game in GIFs.]
Derrick Walton capped his Crisler career with a vintage performance. [Bryan Fuller]
"We're not done yet," said a triumphant Derrick Walton, addressing the Crisler Center crowd after a Senior Day victory over Purdue that all but locked in Michigan to a NCAA tournament bid.
The Wolverines looked the part of a team capable of making a run in March. They scored on their first possession against the current Big Ten leaders, getting a Moe Wagner layup off a Walton assist. Those two would lead the way in a game Michigan never trailed.
The matchup of Wagner and national player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan took center stage in the first half. The German big man didn't just hold his own: he dominated. Forcing the burlier Swanigan to defend in space, Wagner poured in 22 first-half points, making five of six two-pointers and raining in four of his six three-point attempts. While Swanigan had an efficient nine points in the half, timely Michigan double-teams forced two turnovers, and he couldn't get the defense to collapse—the normally hot-shooting Boilermakers went only 5-for-16 on threes.
"That's just my guy, man," Walton said of Wagner. "I've got an absurd amount of respect for him. We go through [the pick-and-pop] so much in pregame, that's just our little thing. He knows where I'm at. I know where he's at. With a defense like that, I feel it was my priority to get him the ball in space."
Purdue adjusted in the second half, putting Vincent Edwards on Wagner and switching on every screen, but by then it was too late. Duncan Robinson's corner three-pointer sent Michigan into halftime with a 15-point lead, and the Wolverines would push the margin as high as 22 points before a last-gasp Boilermakers comeback made matters uncomfortable for a couple possessions.
Wagner scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half. [Fuller]
Fittingly, the seniors to play a huge role in fending off that comeback. Zak Irvin struggled to score again today, but he made his mark with a big defensive play, chasing down Carsen Edwards to force a fast break miss when Purdue had a chance to cut the lead to single digits. The Boilermakers subsequently got it to a six-point game with 2:14 to play. Walton ended the threat by ducking under Swanigan to hit leaning three-pointer that beat the shot clock and effectively ended the threat.
"I silently thanked God because there was no reason I should've made the shot," Walton said. "It was probably one of the worst possessions we had all game. You just kind of dribble the ball around for six seconds. It's just one of those times. We had a lot going against us this season. It was one of those moments where it was kind of 'okay then, we finally got a good bounce of the ball.'"
"I was actually about to chase it. It was not a good shot."
Walton finished with a very Walton stat line: 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, five assists, no turnovers, and a steal. Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman both finished in double figures on combined 7-for-9 shooting. DJ Wilson added nine points and a critical stint at center in the second half when Mark Donnal proved ineffective. Xavier Simpson got into the act, hitting both his field goals—a transition corner three and an eye-opening layup after driving past Swanigan—and dishing out a pair of assists.
Xavier Simpson gave the fans a taste of what's to come after Walton. [Fuller]
The team was in high spirits in the aftermath. Asked if Irvin cried, Walton couldn't help but laugh, then said loud enough for his fellow senior to hear, "I think he choked up on the mic. He did. I looked at him."
"No I didn't!" Irvin yelled from across the room.
They know there's still more to accomplish, however.
"We already experienced something like this where we've had some success," Walton said, referring to the wins at Madison Square Garden. "We want to show who we really are by consistently bringing the same effort."
"You've just got to spend a film session with me to know that they know they haven't punched any ticket," said John Beilein. "There's a lot of work to do. You don't know what can happen down the stretch here with teams that are trying to get in there."
Northwestern fits that description. Michigan will head to Evanston on Wednesday in the midst of their best stretch of basketball all season. The team we've seen the last few weeks could make quite a bit of noise in March. Today's win made it much more likely they'll get the chance to do so.