Breakdown: #3 Purdue's loss at Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Fresh off the high of the Boilermakers' biggest win of the season to date on Tuesday night against Illinois, No. 3 Purdue experienced the polar opposite on Thursday, routed at Michigan, 82-58, in the two teams' second meeting in less than a week.
In short, this was virtually a team-wide breakdown on Purdue's part, to end a six-game winning streak during which the Boilermakers had again begun to look the part of the best team in the country.
But college basketball's a funny game sometimes, prone to dramatic swings and wild variances in outcomes.
The Boilermakers handled this very Michigan team on Saturday in Mackey Arena.
Tonight, a total and all-encompassing malfunction.
The Wolverines had a lot to do with that — some schematic tweaks and a 9-of-13 second-half three-point shooting blitz, among them — but a malfunction nonetheless.
"I like our guys. We obviously have a good team," Coach Matt Painter said. "But I told them in the locker room, 'You have to take inventory as an individual player, but we also have to take inventory collectively.' We've had breakdowns defensively this season and our offense saves us. That's what happens.
"Now, if you don't play well offensively and you don't play well defensively, and you face a team that shoots the ball the way they did, you're in trouble."
The nation's top-ranked offense and one of the best three-point shooting teams in America made just 4-of-18, a number dressed up some by Caleb Furst's garbage-time make with two minutes to play and the Boilermakers down an incomprehensible 29 points.
Star Jaden Ivey got his numbers — 18 points — but got next to no help, and wound up committing five of the Boilermakers' costly 14 turnovers. Turnovers were part of the story, as they've tended to be when Purdue's been beaten this season.
Defensive rebounding, too. Michigan got a dozen offensive rebounds and turned them into double-digit scoring, though those 10 points were a mere redundancy to the final score when all was said and done.
But as much as Purdue's uncharacteristic offensive difficulties contributed to a loss sure to get national attention for the opposite reason the Illinois win did, it was the Boilermakers' defensive problems that really loomed largest.
The Boilermakers' defensive structure and approach are geared specifically to protect the paint.
On Saturday, Michigan scored 36 points in the lane over 40 minutes. Thursday night, the Wolverines matched that total by halftime.
While center Hunter Dickinson again rained threes as part of a 22-point, nine-rebound game, Moussa Diabate dunked numerous times off rolls to the basket, as Michigan reconfigured its ball-screen offense with great success. Guard DeVante' Jones cut Purdue's halfcourt defense up to the tune of 11 points and 10 assists.
"A lot of things (went wrong defensively)," Coach Matt Painter said. "You name it. ... We had breakdowns in ball-screen defense, we had breakdowns containing the bounce, breakdowns when we were supposed to double and trap.
"I can go on for a long time."
For Purdue, this is a foreign feeling. Its three prior losses this season were narrow contests, two of them coming down to the final seconds. The Boilermakers hadn't lost by double-figures — let alone this much — since last year's home loss to this same Michigan team, the first game they played without Sasha Stefanovic after he tested positive for COVID.
"All we can do is let it humble us," senior Trevion Williams said, "and move on and be better because of it"
HOW IT HAPPENED
As poorly as Purdue played defensively, as poorly as it shot, as much as it turned the ball and as many second chances as it allowed the Wolverines, this was only a nine-point game at halftime, just 38-29.
Michigan's 9-of-13 three-point shooting after halftime put an end to that, starting with Caleb Houstan's three following a Purdue turnover to open the second half and continuing on through Eli Brooks' four second-half threes on as many tries. Freshman Caleb Houstan was 4-for-6 for the game, as did Hunter Dickinson, whose shooting display in Mackey Arena on Saturday undoubtedly put that element of his game atop Purdue's scouting report, yet ...
"Our mistakes on defense got them going," Ivey said, "and they took off."
So much was Matt Painter grasping at straws in the second half, he put Trevion Williams and Zach Edey on the floor together, trying to high-low the Wolverine zone that the Boilermakers couldn't shoot them out of.
Consistent with everything Painter's said about the unconventional lineup, the Boilermakers did operate effectively offensively with the pairing, but subsequently saw Michigan make five straight shots and back-to-back transition threes to go from 13 down to nearly 30 in the final minutes.
"Collectively as a team, we didn't bring it today," Ivey said. "We have to learn from it, bounce back, stay even-keeled. Obviously it's frustrating but we can't dwell on this. We've got a game Sunday."
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Purdue had the game tied at 24 with eight minutes left in the first half, courtesy of Ethan Morton's three. Michigan then scored seven straight while the Boilermakers missed six shots in a row. The Wolverines closed the half on a 14-5 run.
The shallowest pool to choose from of the season as virtually the whole roster struggled. Jaden Ivey scored 18, though, and sort of went it alone to start the second half, giving Purdue life when it might have otherwise had none. This wasn't his best game but this was no one's finest hour.
Michigan scored 25 points off either Purdue's 14 turnovers or the Wolverines' 12 offensive rebounds. Sometimes Purdue's best defense is a sound offense, and tonight, the Boilermakers really had neither and Michigan took advantage.
WHAT IT MEANS
This was Purdue's bottoming out. It can get no worse than this. Games like this happen sometimes, but this one shined a light, too, on the realities that the Boilermakers are still extremely vulnerable defensively. Tonight, they'd have needed elite offense to overcome it, and while that's been there most of this season, tonight it was not.
If this wasn't another moment of reckoning for Purdue in that regard — top to bottom — the way the Wisconsin game seemed to be many weeks ago, then what would be?
Purdue's still an outstanding team. It just had a worst-case-scenario night under strange circumstances, playing a team twice in the span of a week during a grueling stretch of games.
Had this game been played in January like it was supposed to be ...
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