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Purdue led No. 7 Michigan by a dozen with 12 minutes remaining Wednesday night, standing on the verge of its second upset of a Big Ten contender in as many tries.
Then, Trey Burke happened, as the Michigan point guard may have added a final nail to impressive Big Ten and national player-of-the-year résumés, guiding the Wolverines to an 80-75 win and keeping their Big Ten championship-share hopes alive.
Burke scored 22 of his 26 points after halftime and scored 14 with three assists in the final 5:05 alone to save Michigan and come out on top in an epic back-and-forth with Purdue's Terone Johnson, who scored a career-high 32 points, the most by a Boilermaker since E'Twaun Moore dropped 38 on Ohio State in 2011.
"Trey Burke is a very good player and the one thing you want to do is try to keep him out of rhythm," Coach Matt Painter said. "But when he makes speed-dribble, step-back pull-ups, you're going to shake his hand a few times. He made a couple unbelievable shots on the run, and that's why some consider him the best lead guard in the country. He can make those shots. Not a lot of people can make those shots."
Purdue's star on this night wasn't so bad, either.
Terone Johnson made 12-of-17 shots, 3-of-5 three-pointers and all five of his foul shots in obliterating his previous career-best scoring total of 25.
His three just before the halftime buzzer put Purdue up four at the break after the Wolverines had led by as many as 12 in the first half.
In the second half, he led a Purdue charge that closely mirrored the surge it rode to a win at Wisconsin, only difference being that the Wolverines were able to mount the comeback the Badgers never could piece together.
The junior poured in seven consecutive points for Purdue to give the home team a 12-point lead.
But that just seemed to light a fire under Burke, perhaps now the front-runner for Big Ten Player-of-the-Year honors after playing the hero in back-to-back Michigan wins.
His team down a dozen, Burke hit a three, then made a jumper next time down.
Just inside the seven-minute mark, he kicked off a run in which he scored seven straight for Michigan, his last basket giving the Wolverines a 59-58 lead with 5:15 left and triggering a back-and-forth final few minutes, one in which Purdue looked cooked a number of times, only to get one last golden opportunity.
With 10-and-a-half seconds remaining, Burke missed a foul shot that would have put Michigan up four.
Ronnie Johnson pushed the ball up the floor, but his pass to Terone Johnson on the left wing may have had a bit too much on it and broke through the latter Johnson's hands. It went down as a turnover rather than a chance for Purdue to potentially tie the game with a three. Painter said afterward there were designs to get the ball to D.J. Byrd.
"It was a good pass," Terone Johnson said. "It just slipped through my hands."
That must have been the feeling collectively for Purdue, which came close to its second landmark win in less than a week's time.
Purdue was crushed coming off the floor, for certain, but can take some solace in how it represented itself again, playing some of its best basketball of the season against an elite opponent.
"I just think we've all come together now toward the end of the season," said freshman Rapheal Davis, who paired 15 points with nine rebounds. "We saved our best basketball for last. We're playing as hard as we have, practicing as hard as we have. ... We're just playing for our coaches, playing for our fans, forgetting about ourselves and just playing for everybody."
But on this night, Purdue's best efforts ran into one of the best players in the country.
Michigan scored off every possession it got in the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game, with that having everything to do with Burke, though Matt Vogrich, Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. also chipped in big shots.
But while Burke, Michigan's most important player, turned it up, Purdue's improbably crucial player, Sandi Marcius, checked out after rolling his ankle at 13:40 of the second half.
Marcius - all of a sudden Purdue's heart and soul - returned briefly, but limped, hobbled and winced his way through a painful two minutes of playing time before coming back out.
Purdue needed him.
The junior big man kept the Boilermakers afloat early by scoring their first nine points. He positioned Purdue for a rally in the second half, scoring its first four.
And that says nothing of his presence on the boards, where the Boilermakers out-rebounded Michigan 42-30 even with their center limited, or the intangibles of energy and enthusiasm he's provided lately.
"You always miss that spirit with him," Terone Johnson said of Marcius. "... When he makes those hard plays, he's up on his feet getting hyped, whether he's on the bench or in the game he's doing that. When he makes a hustle play, you would think he made four threes in a row. That's a great presence that we need."
But Purdue didn't have it down the stretch against Michigan.
Nevertheless, the Boilermakers took the Wolverines right down the wire, before seeing their upset hoped dashed by Burke.
"We're making strides," Painter said. "We're getting better.
"I just wish we were doing this six weeks ago."
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