Does this scenario seem familiar? #1 Duke loses on the road, giving Michigan a national audience the next day to prove they are the best in the country?
A week removed from a statement victory on the road against #9 Minnesota, the #2 ranked Michigan Wolverines (17-1, 4-1 B1G) return home Thursday evening to face a Purdue team (10-8, 3-2 B1G) that has given them fits in the past.
Winners of their last three games after a slow start to the season, the Boilermakers have turned things around in large part due to their defense. During their recent win streak, Purdue has only allowed an average of 50 points per game and fewer than 30 percent shooting. In their most recent win against West Virginia, their stingy defense was able to force 17 turnovers.
Michigan has lost three of its last four meetings with the Boilermakers with their most recent loss coming last February at Crisler. Coincidentally, it was the Wolverines’ only loss at home in their last 28 contests. Trey Burke only scored 18 points combined in the two games vs. Purdue last season and Hardaway was held to only 10 points the last time these two teams met. As a team, Michigan has only been able to average around 60 points per game in their last four meetings with the Boilermakers.
Look for a physical matchup much like what we saw in the Minnesota game. It’s going to come down to Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III to take some of the pressure off of Burke and Hardaway. Purdue is not a team that will be able to keep up with a high scoring game, but if they can limit the damage of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr, they will be giving themselves a fighting chance to win.
If Michigan is to win this game, which I fully expect them to, it will come down to two things. The first being the role players stepping up, as mentioned above, and also limiting what Purdue’s leading scorer, Junior guard Terone Johnson, does against them. Johnson is averaging 13.3 points per game, but had 22 in their victory over the Wolverines last February at Crisler.
Expect another Big Ten slugfest Thursday night. I think it’s going to be a closer game than what everybody is expecting. Tipoff is at 7pm on ESPN.