I decided to call this the best wins of the Painter era because some of the best games have unfortunately ended up as losses. Last year’s NCAA Tournament game with Virginia is right at the top of that list of course, but think of “Carsen at Texas” or Robbie Hummel vs. Evan Turner as strong games where Purdue came up short.
We want to look at wins, however, and based on the ballots I was able to gather this is one that made the list even if it was not in my original post.
January 25, 2018 – Purdue 92, Michigan 88 at Purdue
If you like high level basketball, this was your game. Purdue had gotten a hard-earned win in Ann Arbor on a late Isaac Haas free throw earlier that season, but with a winning streak at 15 the Wolverines came to West Lafayette. They were ranked No. 25 at the time and Purdue had climbed all the way to #3, its highest ranking in 8 years. Purdue and Michigan have played some fantastic games over the years, but this one may be the best. With the Boilers at 8-0 in the Big Ten and coming off of the 2017 championship we were the hunted
And boy, did the wolverines hunt.
The ESPN wrap sums this game up best:
By the time the third media timeout of the second half came, with 7:45 to go, both teams were still shooting over 75 percent from the field and at least 75 percent on 3-pointers in the half. Only seven of 32 shots were missed and at one point, the lead changed on 13 consecutive baskets.
Shooting 75% from the floor for one team deep into the second half is absurd. With both teams doing it you have an incredibly entertaining game. For large swaths of this game neither team could miss. Vince Edwards dropped 30. Isaac Haas had 24. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 26 points and was 10 of 15 from the floor. Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson were carving up Purdue’s defense with great passing.
This is one that started early both ways and just didn’t stop. Just 8 minutes in it was 14-14. A 12-2 Purdue run helped give the Boilers a 41-36 lead at the half, but it was the second half where both teams were just incredible. Here is what MGoBlog had to say:
Sometimes you face a normal foe. Sometimes you face a fleet of T-Rexes in F-15s firing with maximum precision. When facing the latter, especially in their territory, the margin for error is terrifyingly thin.
For the better part of 40 minutes, Michigan held their own with the Purdue T-Rexes in F-15s, with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman playing the role of dinosaur hunter. A MAAR three-point strike, part of a scorching second-half start for both teams, even gave the road underdogs a lead with under ten minutes to play. It was the game’s 23rd lead change.
UMHoops was equally complimentary:
Halfway through second half, the Wolverines were averaging over two points per possession and managed to score 32 points in their first 14 trips down the floor.
That stretch included eight consecutive scoring possessions to open the half.
I am not kidding when I say neither team could miss. This was as fine of offensive basketball as you could ask for and Abdur-Rahkman was glowing white hot with 19 second half points. Just look at some of the highlights:
These were two teams at the peak of their offensive powers just throwing haymakers at each other. From the 17:08 mark of the second half to the 10:21 mark the lead changed hands an incredible 13 times, all on consecutive baskets. Vince Edwards tied it at 68-68 after an Abdur-Rahkman triple, and that is when Purdue began to pull away just barely. It was part of a 14-2 Purdue run that allowed us to open up a 79-70 lead, as I wrote then:
Really, this was a fantastic game. Both teams played extremely well and Michigan was more than a handful. If not for that 14-2 run Purdue was in trouble. P.J. Thompson got to avenge himself by making both ends of a late 1 and 1 to ice it after missing the front end last year in the Big Ten Tournament before Purdue lost in overtime. Michigan did a lot of things offensively to confuse Purdue and continued to take advantage of switches for threes or drives to the basket by Rahkman. Purdue was just better offensively. The Boilers shot 62% for the game from the floor and probably loses if it shoots below 60.
Even after the run Michigan didn’t go away. They got it to within four at 81-77 with 1:40 left and even three at 85-82 with 34 seconds left. Edwards hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute to help seal the win, while PJ added two more.
Both teams shot better than 60% from the floor for the entire game. Both teams were over 55% from three. I am not sure of the points per possession stats, but they were absurd. I think at one point in the second half they may have been over two points per possession. It was just nuts, especially in that 7 minute stretch with 13 lead changes.
While Purdue did not go on to win the Big Ten, this game was entertaining as hell and really one of the peaks of that particular Purdue team’s offense. The inside-out game with Haas was working to perfection. They couldn’t single team him because Purdue would get it to him to score. When they did double him Purdue bombed away from three with ruthless efficiency. It says something when Carsen Edwards had a quiet 13 points. The teams combined for just 46 rebounds because there were an astounding 66 made field goals.
This was just a great, great basketball game. Purdue got the regular season sweep by a total of five points, but the Wolverines would later win the third game in the Big Ten Tournament Championship before finishing as National Runner-Up to Villanova.