When Purdue coach Matt Painter dismissed junior Kelsey Barlow from the team last Friday due to an altercation at a bar, senior Ryne Smith called it “addition by subtraction.” That statement may have been validated Saturday night, as the Boilermakers went into Crisler Arena and thoroughly dominated the Wolverines, 75-61, sullying their pristine 15-0 home mark in the process.
Sophomore guard Terone Johnson had his best game of the season, going 9-12 from the field and scoring 22 points. Senior forward Robbie Hummel added 17 points.
It was senior night for the Maize and Blue, but Zack Novak and Stu Douglass were nowhere to be found. The two veterans shot a combined 8-17 from the field and 5-11 from beyond the arc. That’s not to say that the Wolverines’ underclassmen were any better. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., one of the most consistent scoring tandems in the Big Ten, struggled all night–especially Hardaway Jr., who went 0-6 from three.
So what does this loss mean for the Maize and Blue?
With Michigan State currently holding a two-game lead over the Wolverines, those conference championship hopes are all but gone now. Granted, with games remaining at Illinois and at Penn State, Michigan can end its season on a good note. But I wouldn’t count on Sparty–as tough as their final two games are (at Indiana, home vs. OSU)–to lose their final two.
A Big Ten championship would have been the icing on the cake on what has been arguably the best regular season in Ann Arbor in over a decade. But not taking home the conference crown in no way diminishes what this team has accomplished this season, nor does it preclude it from making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, the Wolverines looked like the inferior team on their home floor yesterday. But Purdue simply had a better game plan.
The Boilermakers played physical defense and made Burke uncomfortable all game.
On offense, Matt Painter’s crew came out hot and never slowed down. The Boilermakers made five of their first seven three-point shots, and when those stopped falling, Terone Johnson was blowing past slower defenders like Novak and Douglass–whose celebratory night was increasingly becoming a nightmare with every missed jumper and blown defensive assignment.
Purdue needed this game, Michigan didn’t. That much was obvious to any passive observer.The question is, can the Wolverines right the ship?
This is their first real setback since losing at Arkansas more than a month ago. With just two games remaining on their schedule, two victories will be a must.
Chris Johnson is a sports writer for The Daily Northwestern. He is also the Michigan beat writer for bigtenorbust.com. Follow him @chrisdjohnsonn. contact: email@example.comFollow paulmbanks