In sports, it’s rare to get a second chance.
But on Thursday night, Michigan had an opportunity to get revenge against a Purdue team they had lost to just five days ago.
The Wolverines were able to do so, using their full arsenal of offensive weapons to dismantle the third-ranked Boilermakers and pull off the stunning upset victory. The Michigan men’s basketball team (13-9 overall, 7-5 Big Ten) took down Purdue (21-4, 10-4) 82-58 — rejuvenating its tournament chances.
After last Saturday’s loss, Michigan coach Juwan Howard saw an opportunity playing the same team twice in a week.
“It’s like a chess match,” Howard said. “Each team is trying to make adjustments to see what they can do to help give themselves an advantage. So we’ll see them again and we’ll be ready to compete.”
In the rematch, Howard had all the right pieces in place.
It began with a better start. It was imperative for the Wolverines to pull off the upset after trailing 20-8 early last time out. This time, Michigan got the start it wanted, making six of its first eight shots from the floor including an early seven points from freshman forward Moussa Diabate. The Wolverines’ offense looked far more confident than it had much of the season, running sets and cutting players to the basket to attack Purdue on the inside. By the under-12 timeout, it was clear the matchup would have a different narrative this time around, as Michigan led, 22-18.
“I knew we’re a really good team,” fifth year guard Eli Brooks said. “We just had to be clicking all at once. I think we’re finally at that point.”
The Wolverines were unable to build on their early lead, though, going cold from the floor and not scoring a basket for over three minutes.
But for the rest of the half, it was Purdue who caught frostbite, while sophomore center Hunter Dickinson was finally able to thaw out. Dickinson scored 10 of Michigan’s final 14 points of the half, with Purdue mustering just five. The Wolverines left the court up 38-29, the opportunity to pull off the upset very much in play.
When Michigan returned to the floor, it came with matching offensive intensity. Diabate set the tone, grabbing a pass at the elbow and then rising to the rim for a jam. The electric slam gave Diabate 15 points on the night — matching his season high with 15 minutes still to play.
“(I was) just trying to stay locked in,” Diabate said. “Really just stay in the moment and not think about the past. Just play the way I always play. Everything’s gonna take care of itself.”
A floater from graduate transfer guard DeVante’ Jones the next possession gave the Wolverines a 50-36 lead — forcing Purdue to spend an early timeout. Against all odds, it was the Boilermakers who were trying to stay alive in the game.
But Michigan refused to give them the chance.
Purdue began pulling out all the stops, running centers Zach Edey and Trevion Williams on the floor together in a move it had barely done all season. But the Wolverines onslaught kept coming. Every time the Boilermakers made a basket, Michigan matched them on the other end.
With just over eight minutes to play, Brooks splashed home a 3-pointer from the corner to cap off a personal 8-0 run. The jumper ballooned the lead to 19 and the Wolverines were not only on their way to their biggest win of the year — they were doing so in blowout fashion.
“Sometimes defense generates offense,” Howard said. “Whether you’re scoring in transition or wearing the team down defensively, then it sort of wears them down mentally.”
Michigan finished the game shooting 51.6% from the floor including 12 made threes. It got the all-out offensive performance it needed, while holding Purdue to just 44% shooting.
“We were really looking forward to this game,” Dickinson said. “We were in the last game, we felt like it slipped away from us. Today, I think we just got stops the entire game pretty much, that’s what it felt like. And for us, I think we just played a full 40 minutes of Michigan basketball.”
With the earlier loss to the Boilermakers still fresh in the Wolverines’ mind, they could’ve laid over and died. But instead, Michigan finally played like the team that had been pegged as a national title contender at the beginning of the year — its postseason hopes now alive and well.
“One game at a time,” Howard said. “Let’s just keep grinding and forging ahead.”