There is no doubt that the Purdue Boilermakers present some definite matchup problems for the Michigan Wolverines. The Boilermakers and their dominant inside presence A.J. Hammons were too much for Michigan to overcome on Saturday as they cruised to a 76-59 victory.
When the buzzer sounded the Wolverines, who played their third game in as many days, walked off the court looking exhausted. For a team that played in two emotional and tough contests leading up to the semifinals, the power of Hammons and the Boilermakers proved to be too much.
Purdue never trailed in the game, and executed their game plan of getting the ball to Hammons on the low block perfectly.
Michigan was able to tie up the game at 23 after a Derrick Walton drive with 9:12 left in the first half, but that was the last time they would be above sea level against Purdue. Caleb Swanigan converted an and one on the next trip down to start an 11-4 run that would lead eventually lead to an eight point halftime advantage.
Coming out of the locker room it got worse for Michigan. Purdue scored the first nine points of the half, and though Michigan would make one final run during the middle part of the second half they simply couldn’t get the consistent stops necessary to win the game.
The closest it got in the second half was a six point deficit with 7:35 to play and from there Hammons closed it out for the Boilers by scoring or creating while also dominating on the glass.
Walton was clearly Michigan’s leader, and had his finest game of the tournament scoring 14 points while dishing out 5 assists. However it wasn’t close to enough as Hammons recorded a double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
Now the hardest 26 hours of the year will begin for the Wolverines. With Michigan firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble they have to hope their 4 resume boosting wins over Indiana, Maryland, Purdue, and Texas are enough to get them in the big dance.
Only time will tell if it is, but now the waiting begins, and there is no doubt that waiting is the hardest part.