Ann Arbor — A couple crucial calls didn’t go Michigan’s way in the final seconds against No. 5 Purdue.
But that’s not what cost the Wolverines the game. According to coach John Beilein, his team’s 3-point shooting defense was to blame for Tuesday’s 70-69 down-to-the-wire loss.
Purdue shot 57.1 percent (12-for-21) from 3-point range and the 12 made 3-pointers were the most allowed by Michigan this season. The previous high was 10 by Central Michigan in the second game of the nonconference schedule.
“It’s ridiculous. That was the difference in the game,” Beilein said Tuesday. “There’s no way we were going to win this game. We gave up 12 3s. I would’ve been shocked with us winning the game. We gave up 12. That was not the game plan.”
Entering Tuesday’s game, Michigan was holding opponents to 33.6 percent shooting from 3-point range and allowing roughly five 3-pointers on 16 attempts.
The Boilermakers blew those numbers out of the water by making six of their first seven shots from beyond the arc in the first half, the majority coming on open looks.
Much of that was a result of Michigan losing track of its defensive assignments due to the presence of 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas, who was having his way in the post and scored eight of Purdue’s first 13 points with relative ease.
“I think at first we were worrying about (Haas) too much and that’s what caused all the wide open 3-pointers,” freshman Isaiah Livers said. “We just messed up defensive principles. After halftime, we kind of looked at it as like if he gets the ball in there we just got to be strong. No more too much help and leaving shooters. I think once we did that it became a lot better ball game.”
Late in the second half, though, Purdue closed out by making three of its final four 3-point attempts during a frantic back-and-forth stretch.
After Michigan tied the game at 58, Carsen Edwards buried a 3-pointer to put Purdue up by three with 6:05 to play.
Then after Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman combined to hit three consecutive deep balls to give Michigan a four-point lead, Edwards struck again with another 3-pointer to pull Purdue within one, 67-66, at the 3:34 mark.
Vincent Edwards knocked down Purdue’s final 3-pointer to tie the game at 69 with 2:28 remaining, which ended up being the final basket either team made before Haas hit the tiebreaking free throw with four seconds left.
Carsen Edwards finished 4-for-6 on 3-pointers, while Dakota Mathias was 4-for-7 – with all four of his makes coming in the first half – and Vincent Edwards and P.J. Thompson were each 2-for-2 for Purdue.
“If you remember when we played Mathias before, Mathias didn’t get many shots off and we were on him because he’s really a hunter who can shoot runaway shots,” Beilein said. “We just flat-out lost him a couple times…We’re one of the leaders in the nation in not giving up 3s and Mathias was too good.
“They got four guys out there that when they shoot it, every shot looks like it’s going in. I mean every shot. That really hurt us. We fell down one time and they got a wide-open 3. Just miss a couple of those and we win the game. They just didn’t miss.”
In last season’s home finale, Moritz Wagner torched Purdue for 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting (4-for-8 on 3-pointers) in an 82-70 victory.
That performance was still fresh on the mind of Purdue coach Matt Painter, who refused to let Wagner’s 3-point shooting burn his team again.
As a result, Painter made the decision to switch every ball screen with the five man when Wagner had the ball out on the perimeter.
“Did you see the game here last year? We weren’t going to do that again,” Painter said. “You’re going to beat us a different way. Give Zavier Simpson credit, he almost beat us. But our man didn’t beat us, Moe Wagner. He destroyed us last year. I wasn’t going to watch that again. I watched that movie. I got all the respect in the world for him. Moe Wagner is a stud. We weren’t going to let him beat us again.”
The plan paid off as Wagner finished with 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range.
Beilein admitted he was caught off guard by the decision and said it contributed to Michigan’s slow start on offense, scoring just 12 points in the opening 10 minutes.
“Yeah, that’s the first time you’ll ever see that in your life until we play them again,” Beilein said. “It’s Moe’s fault that they switched every screen. Purdue ices screens — they keep it on the side, they down you. They do it every game, all year long.
“They have never switched a ball screen with a five man. They switched every ball screen. It’s Moe’s fault. If Moe couldn’t shoot, they wouldn’t do, right? But because he can shoot it, that took us by surprise and get the big lead and then we’re trying to get back. Once we adjusted, we were much better.”
Simpson continued his recent surge by tying his career high with 15 points for the second time in three games.
He finished 6-for-10 from the field, highlighted by a couple finishes over Haas in the paint and back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half that gave Michigan its first lead of the game.
“I mean he’s just learning right now how you play at this level,” Beilein said. “Every day he’s learning more and more that he’s got to evolve as a player and he’s doing that. He’s very receptive to it, but he’s never going to give in. He’s a harder worker than anybody we have and it paid off a little bit (Tuesday).”
… Tuesday marked Purdue’s first win in Ann Arbor since Feb. 25, 2012.
… The loss was Michigan’s first at Crisler Center since Feb. 4, 2017 (70-66 vs. Ohio State) and snapped a 12-game win streak at home.