WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue guard Chris Kramer lay motionless on the floor inside Mackey Arena, a pool of blood expanding under his head.
Standing over him, Michigan sophomore forward Manny Harris looked around in shock, trying to figure out what had just happened.
With the Michigan men’s basketball team clinging to a two-point lead with 18:28 left in the second half, Harris received the ball on the left wing, squared up to the basket to clear space and sideswiped Kramer’s nose with his elbow.
“That’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit,” Kramer, who played football in high school, said after Purdue’s 67-49 victory. “That was as square as can be, right on the side of my nose. … I wouldn’t go there and say that was definitely a dirty play. Anybody would be frustrated in a game like that, but it was just a basketball play.”
Kramer fell to the ground, and the official called an offensive foul on Harris. As the Purdue faithful harassed Harris, erupting in boos and “throw him out” chants, the head official, Jim Burr, decided the hit was intentional and ejected Harris.
“It wasn’t intentional at all,” Harris said in the locker room following the game. “I was just ripping through, and his face happened to be in the way. … I feel like it was unfair but, at the same time, things happen.”
When Harris left the floor, so too did Michigan’s chances of victory. The Boilermakers dominated the final 18 minutes and cruised to a 67-49 victory. It was Michigan’s fifth loss in six games.
Purdue held Harris to just two points in the first half, but he started the second with a quick three points before being ejected.
With Harris out of the game, the Wolverines (4-6 Big Ten, 14-8 overall) were forced to play without two of their top four scorers. Freshman guard Zack Novak rode the bench, serving a suspension for elbowing Ohio State’s P.J. Hill in the face in Michigan’s 72-54 loss Wednesday.
With flagrant fouls in back-to-back games, Michigan is receiving criticism from basketball analysts like Jay Bilas and Clark Kellogg for playing dirty.
“Obviously, we can’t be elbowing each other in the face,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “(The foul by Harris) was just an unfortunate accident.”
Fifth-year senior guard C.J. Lee filled Novak’s spot in the starting lineup, and he wasn’t the only Wolverine to see increased playing time. Every player except redshirt freshman forward Eric Puls played significant minutes, and even Puls clocked in a few garbage minutes. Senior forward Jevohn Shepherd filled in for Harris and led Michigan with 10 points.
The Boilermakers (6-2, 17-4) dominated the last 18 minutes of the contest, and the fans that were held at bay in the first half went into a frenzy. The crowd hit a high pitch when Kramer, blood covering his face, popped off the floor and pumped his arms to the student section. The penalty gave the Boilermakers what they had failed to establish all game — the momentum.
Following Harris’s ejection, Purdue outscored Michigan 40-20.
“There was some slippage in our defense in the second half,” Lee said. “To their credit, they got out in transition and got some threes and layups. We didn’t combat those or make any of our own. Any time you’re not getting stops or not scoring, the scoreboard is going to get out of hand.”
Michigan shot 32 percent from the field and was just 2-of-12 from behind the arc in the second half. On the other end, Purdue hit 46.2 percent of its shots in the second frame.
“Obviously, without Harris and Novak, you take away two big options,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Especially Harris — he’s such a talented guy, you have to know where he is at all times. They don’t have the same type of options.”
Michigan was a team basking in the glory of college basketball a few months ago after wins over Duke and UCLA. But now, its NCAA Tournament hopes are starting to fade.
“It’s getting to that breaking point where we’ll have to do something,” Lee said. “But there’s still time, we still have time right now. We’re not going to waste time thinking about that and having a negative attitude.”