It was the last home game for seniors Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin at Crisler Arena. A few times this season, Michigan has looked lethargic and failed to bring enough energy. There was no lack of energy and emotion today. The Wolverines came out with the intent to send their seniors off with a great win over the Big Ten leading Purdue Boilermakers. Michigan was in control for most of the game, and would end up with an 82-70 win. The Wolverines move to 9-7 in the Big Ten and 19-10 overall.
Moe Wagner’s hot start
When Michigan is playing with energy, the person usually responsible for getting the team going is Moe Wagner. Today, Wagner was instrumental in giving Michigan a snug lead at the half. Despite having to defend Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan on the defensive end (and doing quite well, I might add) it was on offense that the forward was on fire. He sank four three pointers before the break and had 22 points to that point. Due to a little foul trouble, he would add just two more points to his total, but the damage was done. When Wagner is playing like that, Michigan will be very hard to beat no matter who they face in the postseason.
Walton’s send off
Derrick Walton has been having a terrific run to end his final season in the block M. Although he wasn’t quite up to the 20 point plateau again, he would finish with a double-double in his final game at Crisler. He had 17 points and 11 rebounds, as well as 5 assists. And of course, being the sure-handed senior leader that he is, Walton finished with zero turnovers. Coach Beilein said after the game that Walton deserves to have accolades after this game. “He has finally become the point guard they thought he could be.” That wasn’t to take away from past years, but that he has taken his game to a high level this year.
Offense and defense
The Wolverines were able to put together a very complete game today. They let Purdue corral 11 offensive rebounds and also committed 9 turnovers, but for the most part, Michigan played hard-nosed basketball the entire game. Their shooting was on point, as they made 11 of 26 three pointers with 54.5% shooting from the floor overall. Wagner went 10-15, Walton 6-12, Duncan Robinson was 4-5 with 3 three pointers. The offense was clicking, but so was the defense. Wagner and also DJ Wilson played Swanigan and Purdue center Isaac Haas very tough the entire game. Swanigan did end up with 18 points, but just five rebounds. Michigan made sure he wasn’t getting any second chances. They also held the best three point shooting team in the Big Ten to just five makes from behind the line.
Just one week of the regular season remains for Michigan basketball, and both games will be on the road. They travel to Northwestern on Wednesday and then Nebraska on Sunday. After struggling to notch only their second road win of the season against lowly Rutgers, you know it won’t be easy for Michigan in either of these two games. Northwestern in particular will be trying to lock up their first ever trip to the NCAA tournament and a win over a suddenly hot Michigan team would certainly do that. Likewise, the Wolverines will also be looking to book a trip back to the Big Dance. If they play like they did tonight, two more wins is not out of the question.
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