INDIANAPOLIS — After steamrolling Illinois on Friday, Purdue continued to flex its muscles in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Boilermakers secured a spot in the Big Ten Tournament championship game with a 76-59 win over the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday.
Despite striking some fear into the hearts of the Boilers in the second half, the Wolverines mostly looked like a team that was playing its third game in three days.
A.J. Hammons was sensational for Purdue, scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for an impressive double-double, also coming up with clutch points when Michigan closed in the second half.
Purdue looked like it was going to run away with things early, starting the game on an 8-0 run. But Michigan answered, shooting the ball pretty well itself. The Wolverines had the score at 10-7 in a hurry and had the margin down to one at 12-11 not long after. Back-to-back triples by Duncan Robinson and Kam Chatman featured prominently in Michigan hanging right with Purdue, and the Wolverines had the score tied multiple times. Zak Irvin's jumper had the Wolverines within a point, but they went cold from there, missing 10 of their final 13 shots of the half. It allowed the Boilers to create a bit of separation, building an eight-point lead by halftime.
Purdue dominated the paint in the first half with its monstrous frontcourt, scoring 24 points in the paint and getting a combined 28 points from Hammons, Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, who feasted against an undersized group of Wolverines big men. Purdue also scored nine points off six first-half Michigan turnovers.
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Purdue's punch to open the second half overwhelmed Michigan, which started to show its fatigue. The Boilers scored nine straight out of halftime to build a 17-point advantage, as the Wolverines continued to struggle shooting the ball. But Michigan slowly chipped away, with Derrick Walton Jr. providing the spark. Walton hit a 3 to cut the lead to 12, and Irvin's 3 cut it to a 10-point game not long after. Walton hit another 3 to give the Wolverines their first single-digit deficit since the first half, and he followed it up with a beautiful assist to Mark Donnal, then a steal that turned into a fastbreak layup and eventually a three-point play to make it just a six-point game at 60-54 with seven and a half minutes to go.
But Hammons took over from there. He scored nine straight for Purdue with a flurry of eye-popping post moves and got a highlight-reel block in there for good measure. Hammons scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the second half and finished off the Wolverines. All in all, Purdue outscored Michigan, 16-5, after the Wolverines got within six.
Purdue finished shooting 52.7 percent on the day, including a sterling 57.1-percent shooting mark in the second half. The Boilers scored 44 points in the paint and went 14-for-18 from the free-throw line. Purdue out-rebounded Michigan 41-26.
The Wolverines, meanwhile, shot just 37.7 percent from the field and went just 7-for-12 from the free-throw line in addition to getting beat up in those other stat categories.
Hammon's 27 points led all scorers, and he teamed with Swanigan and Haas for a combined 45 points. Vince Edwards scored 13 points for the Boilers.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way for the Wolverines with 15 points. Walton finished with 14, and Irvin had 11.
Purdue will meet the winner of Saturday's Michigan State-Maryland contest in the conference title game Sunday. The Boilers have won five straight and could dramatically improve their NCAA tournament seed with a tournament championship.
Michigan's immediate future is a question mark. After taking down a top-10 Indiana team with Friday's upset win, the Wolverines could have done enough to earn a spot in NCAA tournament field of 68. But they are still considered on the bubble, and we won't know their official fate until Sunday.