Purdue came into tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak over some tough opponents but faced their toughest test of the season against #7 ranked Michigan. The Boilermakers were unable to upset the Wolverines losing by a score of 70-53.
News broke just hours before tip-off that Sasha Stefanovic would miss the next three games after contracting COVID-19. This was a big blow for the Boilermakers as he is the team’s second-leading scorer and was shooting a blistering 45% from distance.
Stefanovic’s shooting was desperately missed as Purdue connected on just 2 of 12 attempts from behind the three-point line. The Boilermakers just looked uncomfortable scoring the basketball altogether compared to their previous few outings, shooting only 30% from the field on the night. The spacing he brings to the table was missed as well with the defensive pressure from the Wolverines.
It seemed that communication was also an issue in addition to the cold-shooting night. There were a few instances where guys zigged when they should have zagged leading to a costly turnover, which Michigan would then take advantage of.
There wasn’t a time in the game where it looked like the Boilermakers were primed for a comeback by any means. They were able to play better in the second half but looked out of juice down the stretch, too many buckets by Michigan in response to any scoring from the Boilermakers.
The front-runner for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Hunter Dickinson, was largely held in check due in part to foul trouble but he was not needed for Michigan to find success. Senior Isaiah Livers was the biggest pain in the side of Purdue as he had his way with Aaron Wheeler and Mason Gillis tonight putting up 22 points and 10 rebounds on the night.
Coach Matt Painter needed freshmen guards Jaden Ivey and Brandon Newman to step up in the biggest games of their short Purdue career. They both played satisfactory games but did not find enough success to make a huge difference in the game. Ivey in particular will be asked to have a much larger role over the next three games and possibly longer. The freshman did not shoot well and had a few turnovers but stayed aggressive and showed a bit of his point guard skills dishing out 5 assists.
It was a game that Purdue fans knew had to happen at some point, but it does not make the bitter taste in their mouths any sweeter.
This is not a season-ending loss to the last place team in the Big Ten. Purdue lost to a Top 10 team in the country after losing one of their leaders on both sides of the ball and a main focal point on offense. Although, being in attendance, Michigan played and sounded like the more excited team to be in Mackey Arena tonight.
Matt Painter and the Boilermakers definitely have some things to work on to be more cohesive offensively and work out the kinks in on the defensive end too. They are in for another tough test a week from tomorrow when they welcome the #17th ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers to Mackey Arena. They are oddly enough coming off a win over the same Michigan Wolverines in their last contest. The game will be next Saturday at 7:30 pm at home for the Boilermakers.