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What We Learned: Purdue Boilermakers 70, Michigan Wolverines 69

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What can we takeaway from Michigan and Purdue’s matchup on Tuesday night?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday evening, the Purdue Boilermakers went on the road for a challenging road game against the Michigan Wolverines. The matchup projected as one of Purdue’s toughest remaining games in its effort to repeat as Big Ten champions. For Michigan, Tuesday offered a chance to score a win against one of the nation’s best teams.

From the start of the game, Purdue set the tempo. The Boilermakers jumped out to a 22-12 lead with 11:39 remaining in the first half and went into halftime up 39-32 on the Wolverines. Isaac Haas and Dakota Mathias led the effort, both scoring double-digits in the first half.

During the second half, Michigan stormed back. In fact, the Wolverines were able to grab the lead with just a few minutes remaining. At that point, it was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams. One would hit a bucket and the other would respond. Ultimately, Purdue came out on top at the end, winning by a final of 70-69.

Let's see what we learned from the game.

What We Learned

1. Purdue’s balance is impressive.

We all know the Boilermakers have talent. And we all know it has depth, experience, and quality coaching to go along with that talent. After all, teams don’t end up among KenPom’s top five units without some combination of those categories.

However, Purdue’s most impressive trait is its balance. Every starter is a threat on the offensive side of the ball and can carry their load defensively. It’s a beautiful way to play basketball and something that’s not all that common anymore in college.

On Tuesday, that balance was on full display. Isaac Haas led the team early, but as his opportunities dried up, his teammates stepped up. Dakota Mathias hit some huge threes, Carsen Edwards was able to force his way inside, and Grady Eifert made some important rebounds to get Purdue its early lead. Contributions came from everywhere.

Fans knew Purdue had plenty of options, but its full depth and balance were on display on Tuesday night. And, as a result, Purdue scored a huge road win.

2. This win puts Purdue in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten.

Earlier today, I wrote extensively about why this was a big week for Purdue and why it could put itself in great position for a league title with success this week. With Michigan and Minnesota on the road, Purdue had an opportunity to put two of its most difficult remaining games in the rear view mirror.

Well, part one of that task is now complete. Purdue went on the road and won (on paper), its second most difficult game of Big Ten play. The Boilermakers are now 5-0 in league play with a banged up Minnesota team on Saturday.

Even though Ohio State also remains undefeated in league play, it’s hard to think anybody sits in better position in the Big Ten title race than Purdue. The team will be favored in 12 of its next 13 games and substantial favorites in 11 of those games. A pretty amazing statement, considering it’s only January 9th.

Additionally, Purdue’s recent run is also worth mentioning. The Boilermakers are now 16-2 overall and 5-0 in league play. The team’s win streak dates back to November 23rd and includes seven wins over top 100 opponents. An incredible accomplishment.

3. The Wolverines continue to get quality minutes from freshmen.

Roughly 10 minutes into the first half, it looked like Purdue was going to walk out of Ann Arbor with a relatively easy win. The Boilermakers were up by double-digits and Michigan had shown no signs that it could stop Purdue’s offense.

But that’s when things changed.

Despite the rough start, Michigan went on a 12-2 run and was able to cut Purdue’s lead down to two in the first half. While the Wolverines, obviously, weren’t able to get the job done, it kept the game competitive when it looked like it might be slipping away.

The biggest catalyst in that run was the entrance of Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole into the game. Their spark to the lineup was evident immediately and Poole finished with five points in just four first half minutes. The two ended up combining for 18 points and four rebounds on the night.

Michigan still has plenty of areas where it needs to grow, but the play of Livers and Poole has been tremendously encouraging. If those two can continue to progress, the Wolverines have a bright future ahead.

4. Things could get tight for Michigan.

On paper, Tuesday night’s matchup with Purdue projected as Michigan’s best opportunity to score a marquee victory. With a down Big Ten, chances to score wins over top 25 opponents are few and far between. And considering that Michigan only gets Michigan State once this season, it’s even rarer for the Wolverines.

Unfortunately, Michigan came up short on Tuesday night. As such, Michigan now sits at 14-4 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play. While the Wolverines will get another opportunity to score a marquee win this weekend against Michigan State, one has to look at Tuesday’s game as a missed opportunity. The team was in position to get a huge win, but, literally, let it slip away in the final seconds.

Michigan remains in solid shape to make the NCAA Tournament, but don’t be shocked if things get a little close for comfort over the next few weeks. Taking care of business in the winnable games will remain Michigan’s best hope going forward.

Overall

Tuesday’s matchup was an exciting game for both sides. It featured some outstanding plays and one of the tightest games among league contenders so far. Ultimately, Purdue just made a few more plays than Michigan and came out on top.

Purdue will move on to face Minnesota on the road on Saturday. Michigan will also go on the road and will face rival Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday.