The Big Ten Tournament looked to be a showcase of the conference’s top 3 teams: Ohio St., Purdue, and Michigan St.
Instead, it was a coming out party for perhaps its most dangerous: Michigan. With its win in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game over Purdue 75-66, it’s now beaten all three of the tournament favorites, including a win over #2 Michigan St. the night before. While many have complained about moving the tournament up a week early and having Madison Square Garden play host, Coach Beillein will leave the Big Apple with a Big Ten Tournament Title and likely a one or two seed improvement in the NCAA tournament after Selection Sunday in a week.
For Purdue, Dakota Mathias went into the record books as Purdue’s all time leader in 3-pointers made, passing E’twaun Moore. But that was about the only thing for Purdue fans to cheer for on a night where the cliche ‘hard to beat a team 3 times’ was both true and a nightmare.
Purdue’s big men struggled all game. Both Haarms and Haas couldn’t contain pick and rolls or switch onto the opposing guards without havoc being wrecked behind them. Beilein’s offense constantly searched out those switches. Putting the small PJ Thompson in the post trying to contain one of Michigan’s big men and forcing Purdue to rotate and leave open shooters.
When Purdue didn’t switch right away, Michigan’s big men were able to roll to the rim and find lanes to the hoop for easy finishes including back-up center Jon Teske scoring 12 points in the first half while averaging just over 3 points a game. But Mo Wagner, who has always been a fascinating counter balance to Isaac Haas’s pure strength and size, was even better and got the better of Purdue’s big man on this day. Mo Wagner had 17 points on 11 shots.
Carsen Edwards came into the Big Ten Tournament Championship playing better than anyone in the conference, maybe even the city with Kristaps Porzingis still out with ACL injury. On Friday night he put up 26 points on just 14 shots against Rutgers. Against Penn State he had 27 points while going 6 of 9 from the 3-point line. But against Michigan, Edwards’ 12 points were the fewest points in a game for him since January 28th at Indiana.
Isaac Haas alone was able to find consistent points on the offensive end. He finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds.
Purdue found themselves down 5 at halftime despite being outplayed, but Michigan pushed it to double figures early. It wasn’t until late in the second half that Purdue went to a hack-a-Zavier strategy that let them pull the game back to single digits after a lay up with 1:20 left by Haas that cut the lead to 8. Eastern grabbed a rebound the following Wolverine possession and pushed it up the court and drew a foul. The freshman has struggled from the line his entire career and missed his first free throw. The second one he buried and pulled the deficit down to 7 points with 50 seconds left.
Purdue went to more fouls. Rahkman missed both his free throws, but Carsen Edwards would wildly drive to the rim and throw one up at the rim and miss all iron when Purdue had a chance to cut it to a two possession game. Rahkman would redeem himself and make the next two free throws and Mathias’ next miss would seal the game for Michigan.