Senior guard talks about beating Purdue, 75-66, on Sunday to win repeat as conference tournament champions. James Hawkins
New York — Purdue got the best of Michigan twice in crushing fashion during the regular season.
The Wolverines made sure Round 3 in the postseason wasn’t going to follow the same script.
Fueled by another balanced scoring effort and huge bench spark by Jon Teske, fifth-seeded Michigan exacted its revenge and defended its Big Ten tournament title with a 75-66 victory over No. 3 Purdue in Sunday’s title game at Madison Square Garden.
Moritz Wagner, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, scored 17 and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added 15 for Michigan (28-7), which joined Michigan State (1999-2000) and Ohio State (2010-11) as the only teams to win back-to-back conference tournament titles.
Wagner and Abdur-Rahkman were also named to All-Big Ten tournament team along with Rutgers’ Corey Sanders, Penn State’s Tony Carr and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards.
Teske finished with 14 points and Zavier Simpson scored 10 for the red-hot Wolverines, who will ride a nine-game win streak into the NCAA Tournament.
“It feels just as good,” Abdur-Rahkman said of winning a second straight title. “This is crazy. I'm speechless.
“The last two teams that we played is who we wanted to play leading up to winning the championship. We wanted Michigan State again because they're our rivals and we wanted Purdue because they beat us twice and swept us in the regular season. We're glad we got 'em.”
Sensing the title was within reach, Michigan began to pull away and used 3-pointers by Abdur-Rahkman and Simpson during a 10-2 run early in the second half to make it 48-37 with 15:52 to go.
Wagner kept Michigan’s foot on the pedal and scored eight straight, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers, as the lead grew to 56-42 with 12:07 remaining.
After Purdue managed to cut it to 10 a minute later, Michigan’s defense stiffened and helped put the game out of reach. The Wolverines held the Boilermakers without a field goal for seven minutes and the effort fueled a 10-2 spurt — one that was emphatically capped by Teske’s two-handed dunk over Isaac Haas — to put Michigan in complete control, 66-48, with 6:02 to go.
“In the beginning of the second half, we’d get two or three stops in a row, but we couldn’t get an offensive rebound,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I thought that was a real important time in the game. They gained momentum and never looked back.”
Purdue began to intentionally foul and send Michigan to the free-throw line in an effort to make a comeback. It had some success as the Boilermakers used a 12-3 run during which Simpson and Abdur-Rahkman combined to miss five straight free throws to cut it to 73-66 in the final minute.
But Michigan was able to hang on as Abdur-Rahkman knocked down two free throws with 32 seconds left and the defense got a couple more stops to seal it.
Haas finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, and Dakota Mathias and Nojel Eastern each scored 11 for Purdue (28-6), which swept the regular-season series by a combined five points. The Boilermakers made 23 combined 3-pointers in the two regular-season contests but tied a season low with four on Sunday.
“You can't win these championships if they're not dedicated all year long,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It takes a long time to sort of build up the substance to your team that can persevere and just won't give in. They won't give in to fatigue. They won't give in to momentum changes. They just stick in there.
“This is one of the best teams I've ever coached at just moving on to the next play and keep moving forward and doing things just the old-fashioned way with a lot of hard work.”
Fifth-year senior forward talks about Sunday's 75-66 win and sophomore center Jon Teske's impact off the bench. James Hawkins
The opening five minutes was a battle of the big men as each teams’ centers combined to score the first 16 points of the game. Haas had his way in the post and scored Purdue’s first seven points.
Teske provided an early jolt by scoring six straight on an offensive putback, a dunk and two free throws. His last four points helped ignite an 11-2 run that ended with an Abdur-Rahkman 3-pointer and a running hook shot by Simpson to give the Wolverines a 16-9 advantage with 13:54 left in the first half.
The teams went back and forth over the next nine minutes until Edwards and P.J. Thompson delivered Purdue’s first 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to cut the deficit to 30-29 with 3:41 to go.
But Teske and Wagner teamed up to create some separation and close the half on a high. Teske knocked down two mid-range jumpers and Wagner added two baskets to put Michigan up, 38-33, at the break and move it one half closer to etching its name on the short list of back-to-back tournament champions.
“It feels great just being able to do it with my teammates,” Simpson said. “It's something we've been plotting on for a while since July.
“I'm just glad that what we worked so hard for, for it to be earned. It means a lot…Hopefully, we can just continue to keep winning and keep doing good things like this.”