Michigan players talk about the team's performance and coming up short in Thursday's 92-88 loss at Mackey Arena. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
West Lafayette, Ind. — Michigan coach John Beilein wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
After the Wolverines allowed a season-high 12 3-pointers in the one-point loss to Purdue this month, Beilein devised a different plan heading into Thursday’s matchup at Mackey Arena.
Rather than have any guards sag away from the 3-point line and help against Purdue center Isaac Haas in the paint, Michigan big men Moritz Wagner and Jon Teske played him straight up the entire game.
The result? Haas scored 24 points — his second-highest total this season — and shot 10-for-14 from the field in 20 minutes and the Boilermakers made 11 3-pointers to hand the Wolverines a 92-88 loss.
“It’s a challenge that I think few coaches want to face where you have five lights-out shooters on the perimeter. I mean, lights out,” Beilein said. “I mean, Nik Stauskas, Tim Hardaway, Trey Burke, the five of them on the perimeter with an incredible big man, an incredible big man.
“It’s a very difficult challenge for everybody. We only give up like six 3s a game. And I think it’s one of the leaders in the country. And we were trying to shut that down and play one-on-one in the post. And Haas, if he scored 40 points and had 20 2s, it was OK with us. But we weren’t going to give them the 3. We couldn’t do that.”
But Michigan also couldn’t find an answer for Haas, who got to work early and scored Purdue’s first six points of the game on an array of post moves.
Despite picking up two fouls in the first half and sitting the final 4:15 before halftime, Haas led Purdue at the break with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting in just nine minutes of action.
“They left me one-on-one,” said Haas, who scored 17 with 7-for-14 shooting in the first meeting on Jan. 9. “I knew that going into the game that Michigan wasn’t going to try to double that much because we have too good of shooters. I figured they would take their chances one-on-one in the paint. And I capitalized on it a lot.”
In the second half, Haas continued to establish position deep in the post and took advantage of the matchup. He scored five points on a bank shot and three-point play during Purdue’s 14-2 run that ended up putting the Boilermakers ahead for good with 5:38 to play.
He also added an emphatic one-handed slam and two free throws in the final two minutes to help shut the door on Michigan’s upset bid.
“Well, he’s a very good player,” Wagner said. “He’s very big and physical, but he also has a lot of moves down there and you just gotta try to limit easy opportunities for him. I mean, he scored a bunch at the end, but I actually thought we did an OK job. And I gotta be better in crunch time.”
Even with more of a concerted focus to stay up and out on Purdue’s shooters, the Boilermakers still shot 55 percent (11-for-20) from beyond the arc, with three of their makes coming during the seven-minute stretch where the teams continually traded baskets.
Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards and Dakota Mathias did the bulk of the long-range damage and finished with three 3-pointers each.
“They’re just too good. They’re too good,” Beilein said. “You can’t stop some of the shots that Edwards made in the first half. You can’t stop a couple of the shots that Vince Edwards made.
"(Haas) is impossible. And it's a bad matchup for us. You probably need a guy that — probably need a twin brother that could guard him in the post...If he got 40, scored 20 baskets, we were all right with it. We were not going to let either Edwards get shots, and they still got them."
Senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman snapped out of his recent slump in a big way, scoring a career-high 26 points and finishing 10-for-15 from the field, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range.
It bested his previous high of 25 points also set at Mackey Arena two seasons ago.
“I just got a couple of easy shots, a layup and a wide-open 3, got going early and just played confident,” he said.
Abdur-Rahkman tallied 19 of his points and five of his 3-pointers in the second half, each shot seemingly more difficult than the next to keep Michigan in it. His lone blemish came when he missed two free throws with 7:46 to play when it was a four-point deficit.
Over the previous five games, Abdur-Rahkman was averaging 8.6 points while shooting 27.9 percent (12-for-43) from the field and 23.5 percent (4-for-17) on 3-pointers.
“To have Muhammad-Ali play that way, it's the expectation we have of seniors,” Beilein said. “And that's the trend I hope we're going to see the rest of this season. A little about the time that Derrick Walton took off was about this time last year.”
For the second straight season, Beilein and Michigan’s coaches honored Michigan State super fan Lacey Holsworth, who died in 2014 at the age of 8 following a battle with cancer.
Beilein and his staff wore retro Air Jordan 1 shoes with “Laces for Lacey” against Purdue as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer week.
Last season, all the Michigan players’ Jordan-brand sneakers featured the special laces to pay tribute to Holsworth for their game at Michigan State.
… Former Wolverine and Boilermaker Spike Albrecht was on hand for the game. While he didn’t wear either team’s colors, he received a loud applause when he was shown on the video board during a timeout in the second half.
John Niyo and Tony Paul talk with UM senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, the school's new career points leader. Later: More hoops with James Hawkins and Matt Charboneau. Detroit News