Trey Burke bailed Michigan out on Wednesday night. After playing with seemingly no motivation on either end of the court for most of the game and being down double digits to Purdue, Burke took the game over and Michigan won 80-75.
While Michigan got the win, Burke was really the only guy who deserved it.
Once again, the Wolverines played an uninspired, sloppy game on the road. They did that a week ago against Penn State and lost because of it. Tonight should have been the same story, but Burke would not let that happen.
It all starts with the defense for Michigan’s road troubles. More specifically, it starts with the fact that Michigan does not like to defend. They gave up 75 points to a Purdue team that only averages 61.5 points per game in conference games.
In their loss to Penn State, Michigan gave up way more points than they should have as well. The Wolverines gave up 84 points to a Nittany Lion club that only averages 58.3 points a game. So, Michigan actually improved defensively between the two games–as pathetic as that is.
Michigan allowed Terone Johnson to have a career game, scoring 32 points in a losing effort. He was absolutely sensational and there is no denying that. But Michigan did a very poor job of defending him. Johnson was able to get in to the paint with ease throughout the game, giving him relatively easy looks. Michigan’s perimeter defenders were not able to keep him in front of them and their bigs could not help in time.
A strange statistic for Purdue and an example of how nothing is going right for Michigan defensively was that the Boilermakers made 18-21 free throws at 85 percent. Keep in mind that Purdue only makes 61 percent of their free throws in conference games. That means that Purdue scored five more points from the line than they would on average.
Despite all of the incriminating statistics and poor play in the first 38 minutes of play by Michigan, some defensive stops at the end of the game would have made this an easy win. Instead, on Purdue’s final nine possessions they scored seven times, missing just one shot and turning it over on the final possession.
Michigan will go nowhere in March if they can’t play away from the Crisler Center or play defense. Burke bailed them out tonight, but last week’s loss to Penn State showed that he can’t always do that.
Michigan has played 30 games and it is unlikely that the defense will improve much anymore at this point. The Big Ten Tournament is next week and the NCAA Tournament the week after, but first Michigan has a chance to win a share of the Big Ten regular season title against Indiana on Sunday. It is hard to imagine them becoming a better defensive team between now and then, but if Michigan wants to meet their high aspirations, they will have to figure something out.