Seeking its third win in four road trips this season, Michigan led wire-to-wire in a 70-53 victory over Purdue in West Lafayette on Friday night.
The Boilermakers entered the game one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, having won four straight. The Wolverines were unfazed by their opponent’s recent success however, and stayed composed and in control throughout all 40 minutes.
The game was physical in the opening minutes, and it made offense difficult to come by for both teams. Michigan, however, was able to build a 14-4 lead through the first eight minutes of play.
The Wolverines’ defense was rugged in those opening minutes, as Purdue started the game just 2-of-14 from the floor. The Boilermakers settled in to cut Michigan’s advantage to 18-14, but the Wolverines responded with an 11-1 run to rebuild its lead.
Michigan led 34-21 entering halftime, and held the Boilers to a 9-for-29 shooting performance in the first frame.
The second half played out in similar fashion. The Wolverines scored a couple quick baskets to stretch their lead to 18, but Purdue battled back to cut their deficit down to 42-32 with just over 15 minutes left to play.
Michigan remained in command throughout the remainder of the game however. After the Wolverines rebuilt it’s lead to 57-40 with 8:41 to play, it seemed to take the wind out of Purdue for good, and Michigan would go on to grab a double-digit road victory.
1. Best road win of the year
The Wolverines are off to a great start, and are now firmly entrenched in the Top 10. One of the few remaining questions for Michigan is how they will perform away from the Crisler Center. The Wolverines entered this game 2-1 on the road, with the loss coming by 18 points at Minnesota. This was easily the best road win of the season for Michigan, knocking off the current No. 5 team in the Big Ten standings in West Lafayette. Michigan will hit the road again this coming Wednesday, when they travel to Penn State. The Wolverines are not scheduled to face a currently-ranked opponent on the road until Feb. 14, when they travel to Wisconsin.
2. Physical play and rugged defense
The referees allowed physical play in the opening minutes of the game, and that set the tone for how this game would play out. This was an old school Big Ten battle in Mackey Arena. Michigan had 5 blocks and 6 steals as a team, while Purdue countered with 6 blocks and 6 steals. Offense was difficult to come by in the half court, but Michigan turned good defense into scoring chances with 20 points off 14 Purdue turnovers. The Wolverines’ held Purdue leading-scorer Trevion Williams to 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting, and as a whole the Boilermakers shot just 31 percent from the floor and 2-of-12 from three-point range. This is what has made Michigan so good through these first 14 games – they can beat their opponents in a number of different ways. “Defense travels” as the saying goes, and the Wolverines proved that true tonight.
3. Michigan’s captains lead the charge
After scoring an efficient 20 points on just eight shot attempts against Maryland, Isaiah Livers was outstanding for the Wolverines again on Friday. The team captain carried the load for Michigan during some tough stretches on offense against the Boilermakers. Livers had 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting on Friday night, while adding 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks to round out an excellent floor game for the senior. Fellow captain Eli Brooks warrants mention as well, as he provided some early offense to spark the Wolverines. Brooks finished with 11 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting, and was stellar once again on defense. He grabbed 5 rebounds while adding 2 steals and 2 blocks. In a tough road environment, and against a physical opponent, Michigan’s captains showed their mettle and led their team to a gritty victory.
4. An up and down night for Wagner
Franz Wagner had a rough shooting night in West Lafayette, finishing just 2-of-10 from the floor for 8 points. Despite his struggles in that department, the sophomore stayed locked in to the other aspects of the game. Wagner was once again sound on the defensive end and was an orchestrator on the offensive end. He finished the night with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and a block. Wagner has gotten hot offensively to carry the scoring load on certain nights for the Wolverines, but what makes him special right now is his consistency in the other areas of the game. Wagner was visibly frustrated at times throughout the night, but the fact that he didn’t let that affect his game as a whole shows a high level of maturity for the sophomore.
5. Michigan’s lead grows atop Big Ten
After Iowa was upset by Indiana at home on Thursday night, Michigan stretched its lead atop the Big Ten to 1.5 games with this victory over Purdue. As we near the midway point of the Big Ten schedule, the Wolverines are in an excellent spot. This early edge in the standings could prove vital, as Michigan’s strength of schedule increases in the back-half of conference play. The Wolverines have upcoming road trips to Penn State and Northwestern wrapped around a home game against Indiana. Those three teams are a combined 8-15 in Big Ten games so far this season, but the Hoosiers showed last night they’re capable of an upset on any given night. If Michigan can take of business against those three opponents, they’ll be in real good shape for a tough closing stretch.