Purdue reaches milestones in an 82-76 victory over the Michigan Wolverines, Saturday afternoon inside Mackey Arena.
With this win, Purdue made some history in a couple of different ways. Purdue men’s basketball becomes the first Big Ten team to 1,000 wins in regular-season conference play. Matt Painter has reached the 400 career win milestone after the victory as well.
The opponents Purdue faced this week in Michigan and Minnesota could be seen as trap games, but the Boilermakers took care of business to keep pace with the top of the conference.
Purdue has developed a bad habit of blowing large leads this season, to much displeasure of the Boilermaker faithful. Today, they showed that they could close out a team that is talented and had someone going ballistic offensively in Hunter Dickinson. Weathering the storm is one of the most important aspects of the game this team needs to work on before March, and they responded well today.
Keep in mind, basketball is a game of runs. Good teams are not going to go down without a fight, but fending off the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and others recently should give Purdue some confidence and things to work on moving forward.
Another part of today’s game that was vastly improved was free-throw shooting. After brutal performances that saw Purdue shoot 15-26 and 10-22 in recent games, the Boilermakers shot 17-21 from the charity stripe and more importantly 14-17 in the second half. Matt Painter will hope today provides the Boilermakers with a boost in confidence at the free-throw line moving forward.
Purdue’s “Big 3” led the way in the win today, combining for 55 of the team’s 82 points and shooting it efficiently from the field as well. All-Big Ten senior, Trevion Williams also had a bounceback performance after having a very tough stretch over the last couple of weeks. Williams finished with 19 points on 7-8 shooting, with 8 rebounds and no turnovers, which is a great sign.
Today was a “Tre Game”, where his skills were a better matchup for the team, the same as some games Zach Edey is a better matchup. Even though Williams had the “better” performance per se, the 7’4 sophomore was also a force in the post. Edey finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds himself.
Jaden Ivey has taken yet another step in his game and it was on full display tonight. His ability to slow the game down in the pick and roll, to either get a good look in the paint or set up his teammates is a work of art. The future lottery pick had a team-high 23 points and 7 assists to lead the Boilermakers to victory.
Many times over the last two years, Ivey pushed too fast and made mistakes as a result. Recently, his change of pace while driving has been very beneficial for this team. Not to mention the fact that he can also fly high with the best of them, use his quickness to get to the rim, and hit from behind the arc at over a 40% clip.
The defense, or lack thereof, has been an issue all season, and today had some rough spots once again. Hunter Dickinson lit the Boilers up for 28 points on 12-17 shooting, which included several mid-range jumpers and a few three-pointers as well. Dickinson’s performance is one you have to live with sometimes, especially when nobody else on Michigan was able to get much going. Purdue has struggled in the pick and roll with big men that can shoot, and it continued against one of the best centers in the country today.
Role players like Eric Hunter Jr. and Mason Gillis also stepped up to make some big plays down the stretch as well. Hunter Jr. will probably get some heat for how he handled the Wolverine’s press defense in the middle of the second half, but he was able to bounce back from that to play a solid game.
For him and Gillis, it is the little things that Purdue needs them to do. Gillis got an offensive rebound on a Trevion Williams missed free throw with 2:50 minutes left in the game. That led to an extra possession and a driving layup for Jaden Ivey to extend Purdue’s lead to 7.
Eric Hunter Jr also does things that many fans don’t see. In a defensive possession when Michigan was putting together a small run, Hunter defended a ball screen extremely well and clogged up the passing lane to Caleb Houston on the wing. Houston would have had a wide-open three, but Hunter’s effort forced the Wolverines to throw it inside and turn it over because of Trevion Williams’ strip of Dickinson.
After today’s victory, the Boilermakers have now extended their winning streak to five since losing in Bloomington on January 20th. This also pushes Purdue to 20-3 on the season with a 9-3 record during conference play, which puts them in sole possession of third place in the Big Ten standings. (This is written before Wisconsin plays Penn State this evening.)
Purdue is getting hot at the right time, especially with a rematch against Illinois looming on Tuesday in Mackey. The Boilermakers will stay home to play the top team in the Big Ten and the No. 18 ranked Illini, who are coming off a dominant performance in Bloomington this afternoon. That game will be Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. and will have serious implications on the Big Ten title picture.