Somehow, some way, the Michigan men’s basketball team pulled it off.
Playing against top-seeded Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday, the Wolverines put together a late rally to force overtime, where they downed the Boilermakers, 74-70.
Zak Irvin scored the game-tying basket and tacked on Michigan’s first two buckets of overtime. He proved instrumental in the heart-pumping extra period, fearlessly finishing at the rim after he had struggled at times earlier in the game. It was the second straight season in which Michigan has knocked off the conference’s number one overall seed, and, as a result, the Wolverines are still alive in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We’ve shown this year we can play with a lot of people,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We didn’t finish as many games as we wanted to, (but) we’re finishing them now, and it’s important to do it now. It just feels good for our guys.”
While Irvin took center stage down the stretch, the real star of the game was redshirt sophomore forward D.J. Wilson.
Wilson looked ready to carry the load from the outset, scoring six of the Wolverines’ first eight points. He went into halftime with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting — part of a 26-point, eight-rebound game that also saw him block a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation.
In fact, if it weren’t for Wilson, the game may not have even been close down the stretch. With sophomore forward Moritz Wagner on the bench with two early fouls, the Boilermakers used their size to grab easy baskets by the handful. Newly named Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan was again dominant early, but with seven-footer Isaac Haas coming into the game, Purdue was able to exploit the Wolverines lack of size in in the first half.
Purdue led 32-23 with less than five minutes to play in the first half, and it looked like the Boilermakers might run Michigan out of the gym.
Instead, Wilson put on one of his best stretches of the year. He scored 10 straight points for the Wolverines, which, combined with some timely defense, was enough to pull Michigan back within one with 2:15 remaining.
“D.J., I told him he was going to be open a lot,” Walton said. “I begged him, I begged him, pleading, just please shoot the ball when you’re wide open. And he’s a great shooter.”
The Wolverines took the lead moments after Wilson’s spurt, part of a 15-2 run that culminated with a 3-pointer by Duncan Robinson.
Purdue’s P.J. Thompson drilled a half-court buzzer beater at the end of the half, but even Michigan’s 1-point lead at the break seemed like a small victory.
While the first half played out as a game of runs, the second was a back-and-forth slugfest. Purdue seemed to go away from Swanigan in the post as the game morphed into a defensive struggle. Wilson even had some success in the defensive post — good enough to keep Wagner on the bench in overtime — part of an evolution his coach has seen of late.
“D.J. was doing just a great job in the post, guarding defense,” Beilein said.
Still, the score was tied at 61 with less than three minutes to play, creating a tense atmosphere for a thrilling end to regulation.
First, Dakota Mathias drained a triple to give Purdue a lead, but Wilson responded with an aerial layup. Michigan forced a stop and got the ball back with a minute to play, but, with a chance to take the lead, Irvin missed a jumper
On the other end, Carsen Edwards hit a layup to put Purdue back up by three with 33 seconds left, and, when Wilson missed one of two free throws after that, Thompson had a chance to ice it at the line. Michigan looked to be hanging on by a thread, and Thompson seemed poised to end their Big Ten run.
Instead, he missed, and Irvin tied the game on a driving layup with 4.2 seconds left. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman appeared to steal the ball of the inbounds with a chance to take the lead, but the ball was blown dead because the officials had to check if the clock had stopped soon enough after Irvin’s make. The clock had originally read 3.4 seconds remaining.
With the steal undone, Purdue retained the ball with a chance to win the game in regulation.
The Boilermakers got the ball down court, and Edwards hoisted for what would have been a game ending 3-pointer. Instead, though, Wilson came up big with a block, forcing the game into overtime and setting up Michigan’s eventual win.
Michigan will face Minnesota at 1 p.m.Friday.