So that’s why Willie Deane’s nickname is “The Scoring Machine.”
The Purdue senior torched Michigan for 36 points, including 14-of-16 from the free throw line, and the Boilermakers (10-6 Big Ten, 18-9 overall) took a giant step toward the NCAA Tournament with a 69-61 win on Saturday to spoil the Wolverines’ Senior Day.
Perhaps still lingering in the emotion of a pregame ceremony honoring departing seniors LaVell Blanchard, Gavin Groninger and Rotolu Adebiyi, the Wolverines were flat out of the gate.
After a crowd-pleasing dunk by freshman Graham Brown gave Michigan an early 6-5 lead, the Wolverines (10-6, 17-12) scored just nine points in the next 11 minutes. Deane posted 14 in that span, as Purdue opened up a lead as large as 27-13.
“It’s tough,” Groninger said. “Purdue came in ready to play – I’m not so sure that we were.
“You obviously never want to lose your Senior Night game because it’s a game you never forget.”
The game played out as almost an exact inverse of Michigan’s 78-67 victory at Purdue on Feb. 19, when the Wolverines jumped out quickly and the Boilermakers could never get over the hump in a comeback attempt.
“Certainly the start that they were able to get out to was reminiscent of how were were able to play them in West Lafayette,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
As much of a problem as Deane posed to the Wolverines’ defense, the Michigan offense was just as lackluster for much of the game. The Wolverines shot just 38.9 percent from the field for the game and were frequently forced into bad shots or turnovers. Michigan coughed the ball up 15 times during the game, 13 of which came from freshman Daniel Horton and junior Bernard Robinson.
Horton finished with 15 points -five of which came at the game’s finish with the outcome all but decided – after scoring 31 in the previous meeting.
The Boilermakers’ success also came despite second-leading scorer Kenneth Lowe’s absence due to a separated shoulder.
“I think we underestimated (Michigan in the first game), and I think Michigan underestimated us today,” Purdue coach Gene Keady said. “We talked that without Kenneth Lowe, Willie was going to be the guy who was going to win it for us.”
Playing from behind the entire second half, the Wolverines watched Purdue spurt out to a 43-31 advantage, but two Lester Abram free throws pulled Michigan within 50-45 with 5:30 remaining. But Deane took over again, scoring 13 of Purdue’s final 19 points to help the Boilermakers pull away.
“It hurts – we talked about trying to finish this regular season with an opportunity to win at home,” Amaker said. “I thought Purdue played a heck of a game, they were a tough-minded team here this afternoon.”
There were some brief moments of excitement for the Wolverines and the sellout crowd of 13,751 at Crisler Arena as Blanchard was joined in the starting lineup by both Groninger and Adebiyi.
But even in a moment meant to be joyous, the Wolverines were less than pleased.
“I don’t think I set the right tone that I could’ve set from the start,” Adebiyi said. “We didn’t play the way we’re supposed to play, and that’s why we lost.”
With the loss, Michigan fell into a third-place finish in the Big Ten with both Purdue and Michigan State. Because of the Wolverines’ advantage over the two in a tiebreaker based on head-to-head records, Michigan will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 3 seed and play either Indiana or Penn State in the second round on Friday night.