Michigan’s NCAA tournament hopes are still alive, and in order to stay that way, the Wolverines need big resume-boosting wins. Saturday, they got one.
Michigan didn’t shoot very well in the second half — at one point going 2-for-20 — but somehow Purdue let the Wolverines hang around, and they capitalized, closing the game on an 11-0 to score a 61-56 comeback win over the visiting Boilermakers in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines’ cold shooting during the majority of the second half figured to have them out of this one. But the Boilers weren’t able to pull away, building a lead that reached no higher than six. That’s where it was with three minutes to play, and that’s when just a little bit of luck went a long way for Michigan. Zak Irvin broke the cold snap with a big-time triple to make it a three-point game, and Derrick Walton Jr. — who missed his first nine shots — finally got one to fall to cut the deficit to a point. Irvin then hit a jumper to give Michigan a 57-56 lead with a minute to play.
After an empty trip for Purdue, Mark Donnal missed a 3-point try, which was followed by Ryan Cline missing on the other end for the Boilers. The Wolverines were sent to the foul line, and Walton knocked down four free throws to secure the win, completing that 11-0 game-ending run.
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Irvin was huge for Michigan, scoring a game-high 22 points. His shooting numbers were not unlike the rest of his team, going just 8-for-19 from the field, but he was 4-for-8 from 3-point range and came up with the game’s biggest makes. Irvin was the only Wolverine in double figures as the team shot 36.3 percent on the game, just 30.3 percent in the second half.
But the game was more defined by what the Boilermakers couldn’t do. Despite having a big size advantage and getting a combined 35 points from the monstrous trio of A.J. Hammons, Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, that group didn’t do as much damage as it probably should have. Purdue was actually out-rebounded, 39-35, and outscored in the paint, 24-22. Those two stats are shocking considering the size disparity.
Purdue’s shooting numbers weren’t much better, with the Boilers shooting 39.6 percent on the game and 36 percent in the second half.
The Boilers did use a 16-4 run to build a 10-point lead in the first half, but that was whittled down to four not long after it reached double digits, with four being the halftime margin.
Michigan, which improved to 19-7 overall and 9-4 in the Big Ten, got its second win over a ranked opponent this season in eight games. After a Jan. 12 win over Maryland, Saturday’s win over Purdue was the second best of the season and the second best on the tournament resume for the Wolverines, who like many in the conference have a couple tough tests left on the schedule. Next up is a Tuesday trip to Ohio State.
Purdue dropped to 20-6 overall and 8-5 in the league with the loss. Next up is a Tuesday-night game against Northwestern.