Michigan holds off Purdue, controls destiny for Big Ten title

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By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 6, 2013

WEST LAFAYETTE — The plan is simple now for the Michigan men’s basketball team. Win at home on Sunday against No. 2 Indiana and get a share of the Big Ten title.

It took a spirited battle from Purdue, which gave the Wolverines all they could handle on the road.

And as the case had been all season, the Michigan team that plays on the road is a lot different than the Michigan team that plays at home, and again, the Wolverines put up a disappointing performance against an inferior opponent for much of the contest.

But unlike Michigan’s last four road contests, it was able to pull off a victory, beating the Boilermakers, 80-75, to keep the dream of a Big Ten title alive.

Michigan (12-5 Big Ten, 25-5 overall) controlled the beginning of the sloppy game, feasting off the careless play of the Boilermakers.

Coming out of a media timeout with a little under 12 minutes remaining in the first half, Purdue forward Raphael Davis had an open look in the corner. When the ball bounced out of his hands and out of bounds, that marked the Boilermakers’ seventh turnover of the game, which is the same amount of points they had at that point.

But Purdue (7-10, 14-16) didn’t commit another turnover in the first half and not again until 17:15 in the second half. After that turnover with 11:30 remaining in the first half, Purdue went on a 27-11 run to end the stanza, including a 25-9 run over the last 9:30.

Michigan was pressing on offense, forcing looks and shooting just 33 percent from the floor, and looked nothing like the team that knocked off then-No.9 Michigan State on Sunday. That team was carried by fire and confidence, this team was passing up open looks and forcing passes, entering the locker room down 34-30.

The second half started off with two quick Michigan baskets, but a 9-0 Purdue run brought things right back to where they were when the first half ended.

The Boilermakers pushed their lead all the way up to 12, their largest of the night, before sophomore point guard Trey Burke hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to pull Michigan back into it.

The Wolverines, and Burke, kept chipping away. The sophomore, who has now scored at least 15 points in every Big Ten game this season, finished with 26 points — 22 of which came in the second half. He also finished with seven assists.

With junior Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan’s second-leading scorer, on the bench with four fouls, it became Burke’s show on offense. He took over, scoring 14 of Michigan’s 17 points over an extended stretch of the second half.

“I was kind of passive in the first half,” Burke said. “Once I started getting more aggressive, it didn’t just open it up for my shooting, it opened it up for everybody else. Our offense started getting a better flow.”

With the game tied at 64, freshman guard Nik Stauskas made two free throws, then sunk a deep 3-pointer to give Michigan it’s most comfortable lead of the second half. Stauskas, who was knocked out of the Michigan State game after receiving a nasty cut above his left eye from an inadvertent elbow, scored 17 points, including seven free throws.

“There were some things they shut right down for us, and we had to go to a completely different package than what we had planned in the second half,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We decided to play more through Nik, and he really responded.”

Still, Purdue wouldn’t lie down. After Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary missed a free throw, Boilermaker senior D.J. Byrd rolled off a screen and drilled a 3-pointer with a hand in his face to get Purdue within two.

The two teams traded baskets and free throws over the last two minutes, before Burke hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left, followed by a steal, to seal the game.

Even with a struggle on the road, Michigan still controls its own destiny on Saturday in the race for a Big Ten title.

The Wolverines have a chance as long as they have Burke, the way it’s been all season.

“I don’t think you see a player like Trey too often,” Stauskas said. “I joke around a lot and call him special, but I’m being serious. He’s a real special player with special talent, and you saw that in the second half.”