ANN ARBOR — Wednesday night, it took Michigan a little while to calibrate itself on offense and defense to the quick pace North Carolina brought to the Crisler Center. Saturday vs. Purdue, there was no need for adjustment.
The Wolverines roared out of the gates to a 13-4 lead against the Boilermakers that set the tempo for the rest of the game in a wire-to-wire 76-57 win. Michigan hit 13 three-pointers on the night, and n the opening ten minutes of the first half, Michigan led 31-16 while averaging a gaudy 1.94 points per possession. Michigan dealt Purdue its worst defeat since Kansas topped the Boilermakers 98-66 in a Sweet 16 game in 2017.
“They’ve (Michigan) come so far, not just defensively but more of a mindset,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter after his team suffered its worst defeat to Michigan during his 14 seasons as coach. “They have a grind it out type of mindset, not an ‘I’m gonna outscore you’ mindset so they can outscore you but they also can grind it out on you. That is an unbelievable 1-2 punch as a team to have both of those qualities.”
Not everything was sunshine and lollipops, as the Wolverines did go through a seven-minute stretch in the final ten minutes of the first half where they only scored 8 points, but Purdue went through a drought of its own, and could not chip into a double-digit Michigan lead. A similar situation unfolded in the second half when Zavier Simpson scored at the 14:29 mark and Michigan did not make another shot from the floor until Jon Teske hit a three-pointer almost nine minutes later. Most teams would not be able to survive a stretch like that (we have seen Beilein teams in recent seasons get punished for far shorter scoreless streaks), but the Wolverines were able to make Purdue miserable on the offensive end, as the lead never dropped to single digits. Purdue guards Carsen Edwards (19) and Ryan Cline (15) combined for over half of the Boilermakers scoring output as no other Purdue player scored more than 8 points.
“I am very proud of them because it’s something we are gonna do no matter what the score is,” said John Beilein of his team’s defensive efforts when shots weren’t falling. “They are learning that sometimes you are not gonna make a foul shot. You are gonna turn it over, you have a tough ref’s call. Your defense can be the one constant, and as long as we keep embracing that we can keep having success there.”
Outside of the scoreless streaks, the Wolverines were enjoying their first conference tilt of the season, feeding off a Crisler crowd that almost reached the decibels it did against North Carolina. Ignas Brazdeikis hit a three in the first half and flashed the Johnny Manziel dollar sign gesture with his hands, much to the delight of the Maize Rage and other fans. The Wolverines seemed to draw the most energy from defensive stops as the game progressed.
“It energizes us so much,” said center Jon Teske of the plays that made stops. “Jordan, I mean last year you would’ve saw him like fly away and he would’ve dunked it. To see him go up there and wall up like that, is exciting, he knows and we know we are gonna get the rebound and get into transition.” said Teske regarding Jordan Poole’s extra effort to contest an Evan Boudreaux dunk attempt in the second half.
Poole was the standout performer for the Wolverines from start to finish. He dropped 8 points in the opening five minutes including a pair of triples. Poole had 18 points vs. North Carolina in 32 minutes. He reached 18 points against the Boilermakers in just 19 minutes, hitting a three at the 16:11 mark of the second half. The sophomore finished with 21 points along with five rebounds and tied his career-high for triples with five three-pointers. He shined on the defensive end as well: early in the second half he drew a charge, and he did an excellent job on a rotation to contest that Boudreaux shot. Poole’s play was emblematic of just how much Michigan has bought into its defense-first approach over the summer and one month into the new season.
“We work so hard and do the same thing in practice, if I let a moment like that slip in practice, coaches would be on me about it,” said Poole of his defensive performance. “Coach Yak he was extremely excited, he was proud. He was talking about getting a t-shirt or getting a picture (of the play) and putting it up on the wall, but it was cool to see what we do in practice actually work in a game.”
Jon Teske also shined again vs. Purdue. After scoring 14 last year against the Boilermakers at Madison Square Garden in the Big Ten Tournament championship game, he tied his season-high Saturday with 17 points (He scored 17 in a win over Providence two weeks ago at Mohegan Sun.) Teske also collected eight rebounds and was 2 for 2 from 3 point range. For a shot that was not falling earlier in the year, Teske and the coaching staff want to continue developing his long-range game as the season progresses. His two three’s were part of Michigan’s 13 three-pointers on the day that helped decide this one early.
“That’s just our offense; we were running our offense, we were getting a lot of open shots. We have a lot of great shooters on our team, and I am just glad we were knocking them down today,” said Teske of his and the team’s effort to finish 50 percent from 3-point range (13-26).
According to KenPom, Michigan entered this past week with a 20.4% chance to make it to January 2019 undefeated, those odds certainly skyrocketed as the buzzer went final Saturday. Michigan now faces Northwestern, South Carolina, Western Michigan, Air Force, and Binghamton over the next four weeks before Big Ten play resumes for good. The Wolverines will begin preparing for their third game in six days on Sunday, but John Beilein and his players are going to take Saturday night to enjoy a victory like this one.
“I am really proud of our kids, the way they are hammering at this thing, and we are just gonna keep it going,” said Beilein in his opening statement. “Every day just going into practice with great humility, with great habits, work ethic and get ready for our next game. That is as good as we played all year.”
Michigan is already off to a perfect start; they’ll look to keep momentum Tuesday in Evanston at Welsh-Ryan Arena. While no discussions of a “revenge tour” came up Saturday, Beilein and his team remember what happened on their last trip to face the Wildcats in their home gym. Suffice to say, that may add a little extra motivation as Michigan seeks a 2-0 start in conference play.