Earlier in the season, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker benched his veteran-laden starting lineup because he had been unhappy with the way in which they were starting halves.
But judging from their play today, the experienced Wolverines’ lineup seems to have gotten the message.
Michigan used quick starts to both halves en route to a much-needed 71-55 win over Purdue today.
The victory improves the Maize and Blue’s conference record to 4-1, and keeps the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
After starting the game on a 13-4 run, the Wolverines came out blazing in the second half, going on a backbreaking 28-10 run to give them a cushion they would never relinquish.
Contributions during the surge came from the expected – seniors Dion Harris and Lester Abram – and the unexpected – sophomore Jerret Smith and senior Brent Petway. A pull-up jumper from Smith and a huge rim-rattling dunk courtesy of Petway capped off the run.
Harris was also essential in the big run, hitting several momentum-changing 3-pointers. For the game, the Detroit native had 21 points, including five treys.
This was the second meeting between the Wolverines and Boilermakers in the past seven days.
Just like in West Lafayette one week ago, Michigan (4-1 Big Ten, 16-4 overall) came out firing on all cylinders. The Wolverines jumped out to an early 7-0 lead courtesy of two baskets by Petway and a 3-pointer from senior Lester Abram.
It even got the normally-reserved Amaker fired up. Following a Purdue turnover, he charged onto the court encouraging his team on, garnering a warning from the officials.
But Purdue (2-4, 13-7) didn’t come all the way up to Ann Arbor to get blown out. After Amaker substituted Abram, Harris and Petway, the Boilermakers responded with a 15-5 run of their own to take the lead. Play was relatively even the rest of the way, with Michigan entering halftime with a slim two-point lead.
After being dominated in the paint just one week earlier, Michigan responded with one of its best defensive performances of the season. Purdue senior Carl Landry, who had 22 points last week, had just 15 today, while also dealing with foul trouble throughout the game.
The Wolverines now sit just a half-game off the 16-3 start they had to last season. But Michigan lost seven of its last nine to miss the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season.
The Wolverines must hope that a similar collapse is not in the works this year. But with road games looming against Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio State in the next two weeks, getting revenge against the Boilermakers was a must.
For coverage of today’s game, check out the Michigan Daily’s SportsMonday coverage on Monday.