Abdur-Rahkman's career game puts silver lining on UM loss

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

West Lafayette, Ind. — If there are any bright spots to take from Michigan's loss Thursday night, it's these:

* The Wolverines scored 70 points against a Purdue team that is among the best, defensively, in all the land.

* And they did it without Caris LeVert, who remains out with a lower left leg injury.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the sophomore guard, was a big reason behind both developments.

He scored 25, the most in his career, passing the 18 he scored last season against Michigan State — another game LeVert was out.

"He's got this ability, I call it an East-Coast type of thing, where he can get buckets in the wind, in the rain, outdoors, indoors, crooked rims, everything, he can just find ways to score," Michigan coach John Beilein said, following the 83-70 loss to No. 20 Purdue.

"I don't even know if he got a shot blocked, so he found ways to do it. It was really a positive sign for us to get that type of game out of him."

It was especially positive since Michigan hasn't a clue when LeVert — battling a left leg issue for a second consecutive year — will return.

Michigan comes up short at Purdue

He's missed two games, and Beilein's answers get shorter and shorter when asked about the severity of the injury.

LeVert went through shoot-around Thursday, but was in pain, and thus was a no-go.

Michigan struggled inside, as was to be expected against Purdue's giants. But Abdur-Rahkman kept pressing the issue, going inside time and again. He was fearless against a team that strikes fear in a lot of opponents, because of the size.

Beilein was thrilled to see that, especially with No. 3 Maryland coming up next, Tuesday at Crisler Center. Diamond Stone is a tremendous blocker for the Terrapins.

"Anytime there was body contact, he wasn't finishing last year," Beilein said of Abdur-Rahkman. "He's probably made the best jump when it's game on. He just really takes it at you. It's really great to see."

Holding their own

Michigan (12-4, 2-1 Big Ten) has played four really big, physical teams, and lost them all.

But unlike the previous three, the Wolverines didn't exactly get their bell rung against the Boilermakers.

They led for a good portion of the first half, and weren't really put away until there was about five minutes left in the game.

That's a positive development, especially with Maryland and No. 19 Iowa, which beat Purdue, looming on the schedule.

"I like the way we competed," Beilein said. "This (Purdue) team is terrific. Throw that Iowa game away. Iowa's really good, too. Both those teams can contend long into March. We're playing high-level teams.

"I like that we competed. We didn't back down. They didn't bully us around."

It just came down to this: Michigan's defense was impressive in the first half, and was bad in the second half.

Purdue made 16 of 21 field goals in the second half (76.2 percent), which limited Michigan's transition-offense opportunities — and that would've been one area of advantage for the Wolverines, given the Boilermakers play two big men (i.e. slow men) at all times.

"The second half, our defense was so bad, we didn't have a chance to work all our block-out drills," Beilein said. "You can't block out if they're not going to miss."

Slam dunks

Duncan Robinson is finding it a bit harder to get open looks at 3s in Big Ten play. He's shooting 39 percent (7-for-18) from 3 in Big Ten play, after he shot 60 percent on 3-pointers in nonconference play. He might've shown a hint of frustration Thursday when he took a heavily contested 3, and missed as badly.

... Purdue blocked seven shots, which Beilein said "just deflates you." Michigan will have to regroup quickly, though, with Maryland and Stone coming to town.

"We'll see how we respond," he said. "We learn, we learn, we learn."

... Beilein said he was pleased, again, with the play of Mark Donnal, who has seized the starting front-court job for Michigan. He had seven points and five rebounds, after scoring 26 and 16, respectively, against Illinois and Penn State. D.J. Wilson was second in, then Ricky Doyle, then Moritz Wagner.

... Purdue (14-2, 2-1) has outrebounded all of its opponents this season, but Michigan didn't get destroyed as much as you'd think. Purdue had 36 to Michigan's 28.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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