WEST LAFAYETTE — Even Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady admitted he didn’t see it coming.
After losing their first seven Big Ten games, the Boilermakers crushed the Wolverines 84-55 yesterday at Mackey Arena.
“We’re not in the cellar anymore by ourselves,” Keady said.
Michigan dropped its fourth-consecutive conference game.
“This is the lowest point that I have been with this team,” forward Courtney Sims said. “But we gotta bounce back.”
Michigan (3-4 Big Ten, 12-9 overall) trailed by at least 14 points for the entire second half. Four walk-ons — wing Sherrod Harrell, guard Dani Wohl, guard Ashtyn Bell and wing John Andrews — played a combined 46 minutes in the second half while starters Dion Harris, Sims and Ron Coleman logged just 16 in the final frame.
“We are going to play the players that we think will give us the best chance to win the ball game, and that’s what we did,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
Harris struggled to find his shot all game, shooting just 3-for-14. Without backcourt-mate Daniel Horton — who remains suspended indefinitely — the sophomore was forced to create most of his shot attempts.
“I think, in first half, I was kind of forcing some things, just trying to take it all on my shoulders for our team,” Harris said. “I think that kind of hurt us a little.”
Said Amaker about Harris’s performance yesterday: “I don’t have an answer for it. Part of the problem is that they played great defense on him. That’s one reason he struggled.”
The Boilermakers (1-6, 5-13) never let the Wolverines gather any momentum in the second half. They had progressively stretched the lead to 29 — the largest of the game — when the game-ending buzzer sounded.
Up 42-26 at halftime, Purdue was the clear aggressor in the first half. The Boilermakers got to the line 15 times to Michigan’s four and out rebounded the Wolverines 17 to 12. Michigan’s 5-foot-11 guard Dani Wohl led the Wolverines with three rebounds at halftime.
Sophomore Brent Petway picked up two quick fouls early in the game and forward Chris Hunter sat for most of the first half with a leg injury. The duo combined for just eight minutes before intermission. With the bulk of Michigan’s interior defense on the bench, Purdue forward Matt Kiefer took advantage.
Kiefer — who averages 10.3 points per game — dropped 13 points before halftime. The forward went 5-for-5 from the field and converted on all three of his free throw attempts. The junior finished with a game-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
“He was just active around the basket,” Sims said about Kiefer’s first-half performance. “That’s really all that I can remember.”
The Wolverines had trailed by just four, 25-21, with a little over five minutes remaining in the first half. But the Boilermakers went on a 17-5 run to close the half, capped by a 3-pointer by David Teague as the first-half clock expired.
Purdue opened the second half with a 15-5 run. Keady called that span a “killer” for the Wolverines, as the Boilermakers put together three consecutive 3-pointers by Teague, forward Carl Landry and Kiefer.
The Boilermakers came into the game ninth in the Big Ten in scoring offense. Their 84-point outburst was their largest Big Ten scoring output of the season.
“We were completely beaten — there is no other way of saying it,” Amaker said. “You got to give (Purdue) credit for playing the way that they did — not hanging their heads, being in the situation they have been in. Having that kind of energy and execution was tremendous. Certainly, we thought we were playing for some of the same things in different ways. Losing on the road in this manner is very difficult.”