If you thought after Thursday’s games that the Big Ten Tournament was going to be all blowouts you were wrong. Friday afternoon at the Verizon Center Purdue and Michigan played one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen. The lead never got higher than 9 by Purdue which was in the waning minutes of the first half. The second half saw a back and forth struggle with Purdue missing chance after to chance to extend the lead and perhaps put Michigan away. Nothing embodied that more than Dakota Mathias missing an easy layup that could’ve put Purdue up 5 points as regulation ticked away.
Thanks to a buzzer beater from P.J. Thompson Purdue headed into the locker room down just one at 37-38. They were lucky to be down by just that much. Purdue played what can only be described as an uneven first half with the start of the half beset by turnovers, six of them with two by Caleb Swanigan, followed by a great stretch where Purdue fed Haas and Swanigan plus Carsen Edwards came to life to put Purdue up by as much as nine. After that though things started to unravel. The turnover bug came back as Purdue went three straight trips with a turnover. This was coupled with the re-emergence of D.J. Wilson for Michigan who scored 8 quick points to bring that Michigan deficit down to just one. Wilson was an amazing 8-11 in the first half including 2-4 from deep. I’m not sure what it is about Purdue’s defense that allows big men to hit threes but it continued today. Michigan would go up by four with the chance to go up more before the aforementioned P.J. three pointer brought the lead back down to just one.
One of the issues that has plagued Purdue in recent games has been the sudden lack of rebounding. For a team that was at or near the top of the conference for the entire season they’ve struggled of late to corral those rebounds. In the first half Michigan grabbed 12 rebounds to Purdue’s 11. Michigan was able to turn four offensive boards into ten second chance points. That’s the difference from the first half. Sure, Purdue looked sloppy, but the second chance points for UM are what kept them in the game and allowed this UM crowd to will them back into the game.
The second half was the typical back and forth that you would recognize from any number of Purdue games this season but when the Boilermakers had the chance to put UM away with easy buckets they just simply wouldn’t fall. Purdue could’ve gone up three on the aforementioned layup from Mathias but it rimmed out. Purdue would score on their next possession which put them up three but a five point lead instead could have made all the difference. At the end of regulation the shots just weren’t falling for Purdue. They were good shots but they just didn’t drop. Things like this happen but it’s especially frustrating in March when everything seems to be more important. Every possession seems to matter more and every miss tears your heart out. Purdue went into overtime demoralized after having the chance to win it in regulation and I think that showed a bit.
As the game headed to overtime both Purdue and their fans seemed deflated while UM and the UM fans were full of energy. That didn’t seem to carryover to the start of the OT though as both teams struggled to put anything into the basket. Unfortunately for Purdue the misses from close range continued and Purdue missed three straight three pointers with two from Mathias and one from Biggie. That was ultimately their undoing. UM was able to get to the hoop at will in the OT and that did it for the Boilermakers as they exited the Big Ten Tournament in their first game. Ultimately what was their undoing? I don’t know if you can point to one thing but certainly going 6-13 from the line and allowing UM to grab 11 offensive boards and put in 18 second chance points all contributed. In the end it was another disappointing day in March for Purdue against a team they don’t matchup with particularly well. Purdue is a good team verging on great but for now they’ve got a lot to work on.