Ann Arbor — Purdue forward Trevion Williams followed a simple rule.
If he faced single coverage, attack the basket. If he faced double coverage, pass it.
“Coach (Matt Painter) always tells us if you're one-on-one in the post, score. There's no reason to pass it, go score it,” Williams said. “It was a rule before and it’s a rule now. If you don't follow it, you're probably going to come out the game."
Williams, a former Detroit Henry Ford Academy standout, rarely did as he became the latest Big Ten big man to put up big numbers against Michigan with 36 points and 20 rebounds in Thursday night’s 84-78 double-overtime loss at Crisler Center.
Heading into the contest, Williams knew Michigan rarely doubled with senior center Jon Teske and Painter viewed it as a matchup the Boilermakers could take advantage of. And they did, especially after junior center Matt Haarms exited in the first half with a hip injury.
Williams scored 16 of Purdue’s 28 points in the first half, 11 of his team’s final 13 points in the second half and all six of the Boilermakers’ points in the first overtime session.
He also had a chance to win it at the end of regulation and nearly single-handedly carried Purdue to victory, but he had his layup attempt blocked from behind by freshman wing Franz Wagner in the final seconds.
"They play people one-on-one in the post and he is a good low-post player," Painter said of Williams, who finished 16-for-28 from the field and doubled his previous career high in points.
"When Matt went out, we just wanted to focus going at Teske and try and score and try and get to the free-throw line, layups, post moves, and if they did help (double-team), try and get some kick-out 3s. I like his matchup against people when they are going to stay one-on-one, especially when he can get to his left shoulder. He is pretty effective."
By the end of the night, Williams became the latest big man to give Michigan fits during conference play, joining Iowa’s Luka Garza, Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman.
Last month, Garza torched all of Michigan’s big men with his deft footwork and array of post moves, pouring in 44 points to set a single-game scoring record by a visiting player in Crisler Center history.
Cockburn, a mountain of a man, used his strength and length to bully his way into the paint, overpower anyone who tried to guard him and crash the offensive glass with authority in a 19-point, 10-rebound outing.
Tillman was a nuisance in pick-and-rolls with teammate Cassius Winston and scored in a variety of ways — on putbacks, on cuts, on outside shots and at the free-throw line — as he racked up 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“You look at the stats and truly it's going to point at — OK, Jon, the guy that he guarded had a great game. That's true. Kid had a really good game,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “Against Garza, he had a big, strong game too. Kofi had a big, strong game. That's because of the coach being stubborn and not bringing the double-team. You saw when Jon got the ball, they brought two men to Jon. And I know Jon is like, 'OK, well can I get some help, too?'
“But I know that Jon is a competitor and he didn't want to allow or give up any buckets — and he (Williams) did not give him buckets. I know Williams will tell you he had to earn each and every one of those baskets. It was like two heavyweights going at it and that's what the Big Ten is about. It's about competitors, very talented guys, very skillful bigs, but I really trust and embraced our game plan."
According to Howard, the strategy against Purdue was similar to the one against Iowa: Live with tough 2s but take away the 3s.
Howard said he was wary of guards Eric Hunter Jr. and Sasha Stefanovic, who entered the game shooting 42 and 45 percent, respectively, from 3-point range. The two combined to go 2-for-12 from beyond the arc.
As a team, Purdue shot 31.6 percent (6-for-19) from 3-point range, finishing with two fewer makes and four fewer attempts than it was averaging on the season.
“I wanted to make sure we did not give those guys open looks,” said Howard, who added his stubbornness to double in the post stems from him being a “bull-headed” guy. “I trust that Jon would do his job, make every catch tough for him and also every time he shoots the ball to contest it and do it without fouling.
“But Williams made some tough shots, man. They were well-guarded on some of them and he just willed it in with his skill. Give him credit, but at the end of the day, the 36 points, that was on me. That was not on Jon Teske. Let’s make that clear. He scored that on me.”
Like Howard, Teske tipped his cap to some of the difficult shots Williams was able to make, including a couple fadeaways and a step-back 3-pointer to beat the shot clock late in the second half.
Teske said he and his fellow bigs need to continue to work on their post defense, whether it’s “scratching up and off the guards” more, preventing easy entry catches or doing a better job of walling up down low.
With Minnesota up next, Michigan will face yet another low-post challenge in big man Daniel Oturu, who leads the conference in rebounds (12.3 per game) and ranks No. 3 in scoring (19.3 points).
“Every night I'm playing a different skilled big guy, one that can pick-and-pop, one that can play down low,” Teske said. “It's just the challenge of the Big Ten and it's fun to play. You know every night is going to be a challenge and you just have to be ready for that.
“At the end of the day, they may get their points, but the scoreboard is all that matters.”
Iowa's Luka Garza: 44 points, 17-for-32 shooting, 10-for-13 free throws, eight rebounds, 36 minutes
Illinois' Kofi Cockburn: 19 points, 6-for-14 shooting, 7-for-9 free throws, 10 rebounds, 29 minutes
Michigan State's Xavier Tillman: 20 points, 5-for-11 shooting, 9-for-14 free throws, 11 rebounds, 36 minutes
Purdue's Trevion Williams: 36 points, 16-for-28 shooting, 3-for-6 free throws, 20 rebounds, 43 minutes
Michigan at Minnesota
Tip-off: 1 p.m. Sunday, Williams Arena, Minneapolis
Records: No. 19 Michigan 11-4, 2-2 Big Ten; Minnesota 8-7, 2-3
Outlook: Michigan has won the last five meetings between the teams and 14 of the last 15 in the series…Minnesota ranks second in the Big Ten in made 3-pointers (8.7) and blocked shots (5.6) per game. The Gophers are led by sophomore center Daniel Oturu (19.3 points) and sophomore guard Marcus Carr (15.5 points), who both rank in the top six in the Big Ten in scoring.