TOM DAVIS: Purdue proves adaptable in its greatness
Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein has been a head coach since before his counterpart at Purdue, Matt Painter, was even in school – not college, but kindergarten.
He has seen everything in terms of basketball strategy and basketball execution. However, he had to have been taken aback with his team’s game at Mackey Arena Thursday.
The Boilermakers and Wolverines traded offensive punches for 40 minutes, but for the 16th consecutive game, Purdue walked off the floor victorious, as it survived 92-88 in the highest scoring Big Ten game in nearly 20 years.
“They’re just too good,” Beilein said of Purdue, which has beaten the No. 25-ranked Wolverines twice in the past 16 days.
How good was Purdue Thursday?
To write some of what the Boilermakers did to Michigan wouldn’t be doing the word “unbelievable” any justice.
The Boilermakers (20-2, 9-0 Big Ten) allowed Michigan (17-6, 6-4) to shoot 66.7 percent from both the field and from 3-point range in the second half, yet won.
The Wolverines made over 60 percent from their shots for the game AND outrebounded Purdue (25-21) AND only turned the ball over 11 times, yet lost.
There are a lot of traits that make this Purdue team unique in its greatness, but being able to win in a variety of manners ranks among the best, which should really help in the postseason.
“We’re fortunate to get this win today,” Painter said, “just like we were fortunate in Michigan (on Jan. 9). But that is kind of part of basketball, being able to try to be one possession better.”
For the No. 3-ranked Boilermakers, they are a lot better than the rest of this league by far more than just “one possession.” Coupled with Ohio State’s 82-79 home upset by Penn State, Purdue is now in sole possession of first place in the conference.
Aside from the two nail-biters against Michigan, Purdue’s average margin of victory within the Big Ten is over 25 points per game.
The Boilermakers are not only dominant, but they are versatile in how they can achieve success, with Thursday’s victory just being the latest example.
Michigan executed offensively as well as it could have ever dreamt, as it shot the ball better than any opponent had against Purdue in four years, but it wasn’t good enough.
“The one thing that we normally do when we have some breakdowns defensively, in the past, not just talking this year, but also in the past,” Painter explained, “it affects your offensive game. I don’t think that it affected our offensive game, which is a great sign.”
That is an understatement.
Purdue countered Michigan’s stupendous offense by shooting an even more unfathomable 62 percent. At one point in the second half, the two teams were shooting a combined 75 percent from the floor.
The Boilermakers have won games in which the opposition was on fire (like Thursday), but they have also prevailed in league play with stringent defense.
Purdue held Wisconsin to 35.4 percent shooting and Minnesota to 19 percent from 3-point range in routs.
The Boilermakers have crushed opponents on the glass (they outrebounded Minnesota 36-22), but also have been outrebounded (like Thursday).
Painter’s team has dominated at the free throw line (outshooting Rutgers 28-16 in a blowout win), but been outshot at the line (against Michigan earlier this month).
Purdue has taken care of the ball (it had just nine turnovers Thursday), but also been careless (16 turnovers in a double-digit win over Nebraska).
It doesn’t matter with this team what an opponent does, because in the end, the Boilermakers, as Beilein noted, are “too good.” That will be incredibly valuable in March, as a team’s ability to execute successfully – at either end of the court – can vary on any given day.
“I think that it is a sign of maturity as a team,” Painter said, “that even though things aren’t going our way… Michigan’s whole team was fabulous offensively, we kept our poise about us and still executed on the offensive end.”
That is what championship-winning teams do. They adapt and survive and no team is demonstrating that better over the past two months than Purdue.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.