The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 22, 2021 8:00 pm

Halftime: No. 7 Michigan 34, Purdue 21

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – Michigan's defense is too good.

The Wolverines came into the game No. 4 in the country in 2-point percentage defense and they just spent 20 minutes demonstrating how they got that lofty ranking. Purdue usually excels in the paint, but Michigan has shut down the Boilermakers and given them nothing easy around the rim. Trevion Williams, who came into the game shooting 59% in his last 11 games, is 2 for 7 from the field for five points and Purdue is shooting 32% overall. The Wolverines lead at halftime 34-21 and it feels like a larger deficit than that.

Part of the problem is Purdue missing Sasha Stefanovic and thus not having anyone who can really light it up from 3-point range. That's allowing Michigan to really focus more attention on stopping Williams and Zach Edey, one of the best center combos in the country this season that has nonetheless combined for just three field goals in the first half. Worse for Purdue, the Wolverines have been able to defend without fouling and they haven't had to double the post, either. They've made things difficult for Williams and Edey with straight-up, man-to-man defense, which not many teams have been able to do against the Boilermakers this season. 

Despite Michigan's elite defensive work, Edey had a solid half and kept Purdue competitive. The freshman challenged Michigan's pair of centers – Hunter Dickinson and Austin Davis – on defense, making them shoot over him and forcing some poor attempts. It helped that this officiating crew has mostly taken a "let-them-play" approach and Edey has been able to be physical on defense. He has three blocks and five rebounds at halftime. The best part of Edey's presence is that Purdue doesn't feel as though it has to double the post when he's defending one of Michigan's bigs. Purdue has sent (or at least flashed) a second defender at the post when Michigan catches the ball against Williams, but Michigan's big men are good enough passers that they have been able to reverse the ball for open shots on the perimeter. Purdue has had a couple of breakdowns on its rotations and that hasn't helped either. By my count, two of the Wolverines' four 3-pointers in the half came after Purdue tried to double the post and Michigan passed out of it.

On offense, Edey has kept more than a few missed Purdue shots alive, giving the Boilermakers chances for offensive rebounds. The 7-foot-4 freshman has only taken two shots, however, and the Boilermakers might need him to be more aggressive if it is going to have a chance in this game. Outside of post feeds – which haven't resulted in many baskets in their own right – there just really isn't a whole lot happening on offense for Purdue. Michigan plays exceptional one-on-one defense on the perimeter and most lanes to the basket are closed off, while the Boilermakers are 0 for 6 from 3-point range. Any mojo Jaden Ivey gained from hitting the winning shot against Ohio State on Tuesday was apparently short-lived, because he is 0 for 3 from beyond the arc and a couple of his attempts have missed badly. Without Stefanovic stretching the floor, Purdue just doesn't seem to have enough firepower to hang with the Wolverines. Of course, Williams could get hot in the second half, as he has repeatedly in recent games, but it's going to take a whale of a performance from him to get the Boilers over the hump tonight.

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