As well as Purdue has played in its past few games, it will need every bit of momentum it can get Saturday at Michigan.
The 11th-ranked Wolverines are rolling, battling for a Big Ten championship and unbeatable thus far this season in the renovated Crisler Arena.
Last time Purdue traveled to Ann Arbor, it won by 23. But that was a very different Wolverine team than the one that's sitting just a game back of Michigan State in the Big Ten standings right now.
With freshman point guard Trey Burke having filled the shoes, and then some, of early NBA defector Darius Morris at point guard, the Wolverines have taken a significant step forward this season.
Part of that step has been a game Purdue may still be kicking itself over.
While the Boilermakers were struggling midseason due to health-related matters and other such issues, they very nearly took down Michigan at home before falling 66-64. Purdue led that game by four with five minutes to play, but missed a couple open threes in the final 30 seconds that might have won the game.
"They're undefeated at home and we're still looking for that big-time rÃ©sumÃ© win," Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson said. "Why not go up there and try to put a loss in their home column and try to help our rÃ©sumÃ©?"
G: Lewis Jackson (5-9 - Senior)
G: Ryne Smith (6-3 - Senior)
F: Terone Johnson (6-5 - Junior)
F: Travis Carroll (6-9 - Sophomore)
F: Robbie Hummel (6-9 - Senior)
C: Jordan Morgan (6-8 - Sophomore)
F: Zack Novak (6-4 - Senior)
F: Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-6 - Sophomore)
G: Stu Douglass (6-3 - Senior)
G: Trey Burke (5-11 - Freshman)
Purdue heads to Michigan perhaps playing its best basketball of the season.
The Boilermakers have won three of their last four, coming off a one-sided win over Nebraska Wednesday night in Mackey Arena, the rare blowout victory for Purdue this season.
The win put Purdue at 18-10, 8-7 in the Big Ten, and gave it a win that won't help its NCAA Tournament rÃ©sumÃ©, but won't hurt it, either. A loss would have been devastating.
This Michigan game is the opposite. A loss to the 11th-ranked Wolverines won't ruin that rÃ©sumÃ©, but a win could make that rÃ©sumÃ©.
Purdue still has not beaten a ranked team this season, though Temple has moved into the top 25, months after losing to the Boilermakers in San Juan. To beat a near-top-10 team on the road would probably guarantee the Boilermakers their place in the NCAA field, barring a complete meltdown afterward.
In his past four games, Hummel is averaging nearly 25 points on 50-percent shooting. He's coming off a season-best 29 against the Cornhuskers.
Jackson's assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.9 leads the Big Ten by a wide margin in conference action. David SobolewskiClick He's also grabbed seven or more rebounds in the each of the past six games, cracking double-digits in half of them.Here to view this Link. and Jordan TaylorClick He's also grabbed seven or more rebounds in the each of the past six games, cracking double-digits in half of them.Here to view this Link. are tied for second at 2.2.
In the past four games, Jackson has handed out 23 assists to just six turnovers.
Since the last time Purdue and Michigan met, Byrd has shot 50 percent in the six games he's played in and averaged 16.5 points. Last time these two teams played, Byrd played just 20 minutes.
How Purdue uses its lineups this time around will be interesting.
The Boilermakers played relatively big against the Wolverines in Mackey - freshman Jacob Lawson played 10 first-half minutes after Carroll picked up two early fouls - but its offense came alive in the second half after the Boilermakers went small.
Purdue scored eight more points in the second half than it did in the first and shot 52.2 percent in the second as opposed to 37.9 in the first.
"When they went with Robbie Hummel as a 5 man, we hadn't seen it that much, and it was very difficult for us to guard," said Michigan coach John Beilein afterwards. "It was a great move by Matt (Painter). â€¦ It really was a great offensive boost for them.
In Big Ten games, Byrd's 39 made threes tie Matt GatensClick "Fortunately, they missed some shots to allow us to get the rebounds and win the game."Here to view this Link. for the league lead, though Iowa has played one more game than Purdue.
Byrd's 51.3 -percent shooting percentage (39-of-76) is second only to Indiana's Matt Roth's 60-percent (24-of-40) clip.
In the Boilermakers' win at Michigan last seasonClick In made threes, Purdue has two of the top five, with Smith being fifth with 33 makes.Here to view this Link., Smith made 5-of-6 threes and scored 17 points.
Jackson is averaging 13.7 points in his last three games, coming off a 5-of-7 shooting game against Nebraska.
About the Opponent
At 11-4 in the league, Michigan is tied with Ohio State just one game back of league-leading Michigan State.
The Wolverines kept themselves in the race by rallying at Northwestern to come from behind and win 67-55 in overtime in a game considered to be the biggest in the history of the Wildcats program.
It was Michigan's fourth consecutive win, coming after 56-51 win over then-fourth-ranked Ohio State prior to the trip to Evanston.
Michigan is 15-0 at home, looking to complete its first undefeated home season since 1977.
Seniors and team captains Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, both Indiana natives, will be honored before the game.
In many's eyes, Burke has overtaken the lead in the race for Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Year honors, taking another step toward winning it at Northwestern, where he scored 19 points and played all 45 minutes.
In Big Ten play, the point guard leads Michigan in scoring at 15.5 points and assists (4.5), with only 38 turnovers in 564 minutes.
For the season, he's already logged 1,000 minutes, one of only four players in the league to hit that mark.
Burke and Northwestern's John Shurna are tied in total minutes behind only Penn State's Tim Frazier (1,036) and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor (1,003). Frazier and Shurna average a league-high 37 minutes per game.
Burke's been named the Big Ten's Freshman-of-the-Week five times and its Player-of-the-Week once.
The freshman had just six points against Purdue in these teams' first meeting, but made a couple critical plays in the final minutes as Michigan won 66-64.
In Big Ten games, Michigan has shot a league-high 340 threes, but its percentage of 33.5 percent ranks eighth in the conference.
With 114 makes, though, the Wolverines tie Purdue for second-most in the league behind Northwestern's 120.
Opponents shoot 39.2 percent from three against Purdue, the second-worst percentage defensive in the conference.
Michigan is 11th in the league in rebounding margin at minus-4.
Last time it met Purdue, though, it won the boards 30-23.
Michigan's been outrebounded in every game it's played since then, a run of seven games.
Purdue is 4-3 on the road this Big Ten season. A win at Michigan would guarantee a winning record on the road this season, in conference games at least.
Hummel needs just 46 more points this season to pass Glenn Robinson and moving into the top 10 all-time in scoring at Purdue. With seven points at Michigan, he'll pass Cuonzo Martin for 13th place.
Purdue has three regular season games left and at least one Big Ten Tournament game and one other postseason event game. At the bare minimum, if Hummel hits his season average of 16.5 points in five more games, he'll finish with 1,744 points, which would put him ninth all-time in program history.
Hummel needs 50 more rebounds this season to take JaJuan Johnson's place in the top-five all-time.
Saturday, Hummel will start his 114th game, tying him with Chris Kramer for fifth all-time at Purdue.
Tip-off: 6:00 p.m.
Radio: Purdue Sports Network (95.7 FM locally)
Satellite: Sirius 91; XM 91
TV: Big Ten Network
Internet: GoldandBlack.com subscribers can follow along live with our in-game blog, "Game Day Live."
GoldandBlack.com Prediction: Michigan 71, Purdue 67
Purdue looks to be the best equipped it's been all season to win a game like this one, with Hummel and Byrd in particular playing at the levels they're playing at.
The Boilermakers match up well with the Wolverines, but Michigan can say the same thing.
Purdue can play small against Michigan - suffice to say, though, that the Wolverines won't be taken off guard by the small lineups this time around - but has to rebound better than it did in the last meeting between these teams.
For as well as Purdue has played the past four games - and you can view the Michigan State game in context considering the circumstances - it has done so at the offensive end first and foremost.
The Boilermakers look like they can outscore people right now.
But to win games like this on the road, they have to stop people. Since Purdue's own shooting came back alive at Ohio State, four of its past five opponents have shot better than 49 percent from the floor, with Illinois shooting 44.6 in some part due to its horrific shot selection.
Michigan is a tough guard. Purdue will be hard-pressed to keep Burke out of the lane and if the Wolverines are making threes, look out.
Clearly, Purdue is playing well enough offensively to win this game and win any game right now. But Saturday's result may be determined much more by what the Boilermakers are able to do in other phases of the game.
As hot as Purdue would seem, Michigan's every bit so. It's Senior Day and the Wolverines can still win the Big Ten.
Purdue can win this game, but it's an awfully tall order.
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