Like a sturdy Redwood tree, Isaac Haas planted his 7-foot-2, 290-pound frame just outside the block.
With four seconds left and the score tied at 69, Purdue’s center looked to make his patented move: Bully himself deep into the lane, spin and score.
He wouldn’t get that chance, however.
On the backside of Haas, the eyes of junior center Moritz Wagner lit up as a sideline pass came towards the duo. Wagner extended his arm around Haas and got a piece of the ball.
Then a whistle blew.
“I’m not crazy about calls that can influence the game and can probably go without,” Beilein said. “I don’t know if that was a good call or not.”
And as anticlimactic as it may be, the matchup between two of the conference’s premier centers and teams came down to free throws.
Haas would hit the front end of a one-and-one, lifting the Boilermakers over Wagner and the Wolverines, 70-69.
“We ran our play, I was wide open and he obviously came over the back,” Haas said. “I was thinking I was just gonna make an easy hook. When he fouled, he made it a harder game and I pulled it through for our guys.”
That matchup was a focal point from the opening minutes on Tuesday night.
On the second possession of the game, redshirt sophomore wing Charles Matthews slipped a pass to a cutting Wagner, who went up-and-under to hit a reverse layup.
Then, Haas went to work, gaining strong position and throwing a dunk down against Wagner.
Neither could defend the other, as they combined for 15 points before the first media timeout.
It was Haas who sustained his aggressiveness, though. He shot 7-for-14 to score 17 points and grab six rebounds. Wagner couldn’t keep pace, finishing with 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
But Haas’s influence went far beyond just a scoring total.
Thanks to his physical advantage over Wagner, Haas attracted with double-teams in with Michigan shifting a guard down to double him. And even when an extra defender forced Haas to pickup his dribble, the Boilermakers scattered the perimeter with snipers ready to fire.
Haas took advantage of that at the end of the first half, firing a pass outside to guard P.J. Thompson — one of 12 total triples for Purdue.
“I think just having Haas down there,” said senior guard Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman when asked about the Boilermakers’ plethora of open looks. “You have to have to worry about Haas so much and their back-up bigs. I think we just lost track of assignments, and they got easy shots.”
Added freshman forward Isaiah Livers: “I think we paid too much attention to him early.”
On the other end, Purdue gave Haas’s counterpart plenty of attention — but without the consequences.
Wagner’s scored 24 points in the second matchup between both teams last season, leading Michigan to an upset victory over the Boilermakers. Tuesday, they game-planned to stop Wagner, switching and going over the top on ball screens to limit his 3-point opportunties.
“My man didn’t beat us, Moe Wagner,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter. “He destroyed us last season. I wasn’t going to watch that again, we weren’t going to let him beat us again.”
Thus, adjustments were made which helped keep the Wolverines close despite a multitude of Purdue runs.
Struggling to finish his shot, Haas went 2-for-6 in the second half. But the Boilermakers stayed hot from behind the arc with seven 3s.
“After halftime, we said if he gets the ball down there, we have to be strong,” Livers said. “I think once we did that, it became a lot better ball game.”
Wagner looked to be doing just that in the final moments.
Instead, he was called for a foul, losing his final battle of the night against Haas.
“That was a tough way to lose a game,” Beilein said, “with a foul shot.”