Purdue heads to Ann Arbor for clash with No. 11 Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI – The 11th-ranked Michigan Wolverines are right season title, and they'll try to stay the course as they prepare for this evening's clash with the visiting Purdue Boilermakers.
Purdue is 18-10 on the year, and the team is coming off an 85-63 home win over Nebraska to climb above the .500 mark in conference at 8-7. The Boilermakers have won three of their last four games, and they are currently tied with in- state rival Indiana for fifth place in the Big Ten standings.
Michigan has won three times as many games as it has lost this season (21-7), and the club is 11-4 in conference. It comes into the weekend tied with Ohio State, which it beat last Saturday, for second place -- just a game back of league-leading Michigan State. The Wolverines won at Northwestern on Tuesday night, 67-55, in overtime to claim their fourth straight win. UM is 15-0 at home this season, and has won it last 16 games in Ann Arbor overall.
Purdue owns an 82-63 lead in the all-time series with Michigan, but the Wolverines won the first meeting this season, 66-64, in West Lafayette on January 24. It was only the second win for UM in the last seven matchups between the two teams.
Purdue boasts one of the top all-around performers in the Big Ten in senior forward Robbie Hummel (16.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg). An 81.7 percent free-throw shooter who also serves as the team's top shot blocker (38), Hummel is fresh off a season-high 29-point performance in the recent win over Nebraska, the team putting a total of five players in double figures on the night. Collectively, the Boilermakers made good on 54.5 percent of their total shots, which included a 13-of-29 showing from three-point range. The Cornhuskers tried to keep pace, shooting 51.9 percent from the floor, but PU claimed advantages in rebounding (30-22) and points from the foul line (10-3), all while committing only seven turnovers and posting 19 assists. Coach Matt Painter's squad is averaging 71.5 ppg while permitting 65.2 ppg this season, shooting nearly the same as its foes in every facet. The one area that differentiates the Boilermakers from the competition is in taking care of the basketball, as they lead the Big Ten in turnover margin (+4.64), while also ranking first in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6).
Michigan has just two double-digit scorers on the roster, and while guards Trey Burke (14.3 ppg, 4.8 apg) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.3 ppg) garner most of the headlines, the team boasts six guys who average at least 7.6 ppg, demonstrating the kind of balance needed to compete for a championship in a conference as competitive as the Big Ten. The team as a whole has relied on a stifling defensive presence to be successful, as foes are netting a mere 59.9 ppg on typical shooting outputs of only 42.1 percent overall and 33.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Maize and Blue buried 11 treys in regulation at Northwestern earlier this week, needing every one of them to get back into the game and eventually earn the 12-point victory. Burke and backcourt mate Stu Douglass dropped four three-pointers apiece on the night, netting 19 and 12 points, respectively, while Hardaway, Jr. chipped in 14 points despite shooting a mere 4-of-12 from the field, 2-of-9 from downtown and 4-of-10 at the charity stripe. Michigan prevailed even though it shot just 37.5 percent from the floor, thanks to a monster effort in the extra period that saw the team knock down 60 percent of its total shots and nail three consecutive triples to finish with 14 for the game.