Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The 10th-ranked Michigan Wolverines put their perfect league ledger on the line, as they play host to the Purdue Boilermakers in a Big Ten Conference affair on Thursday night.
Purdue enters the fray hoping to put the brakes on a two-game slide, which saw the team narrowly lose to Northwestern in overtime (63-60) before being downed at home by Wisconsin last Saturday (72-58). Despite the recent setbacks, the Boilermakers are in the midst of a solid campaign, having logged a 13-7 overall record, although they currently sit a game under .500 in conference play at 3-4.
Michigan won its ninth straight game by taking out No. 3 Michigan State last Saturday, on the road no less, in an 80-75 final. It was also the third consecutive win over a ranked foe for the Wolverines (Iowa and Wisconsin being the others), and improved them to 15-4 overall and 7-0 in conference. The win over the hated Spartans catapulted the Maize and Blue from No. 21 to No. 10 in this week's AP poll.
Purdue owns an 83-64 lead in the all-time series with Michigan, but the Wolverines have won the last two meetings. The teams will get together again in West Lafayette on Feb. 26 to conclude the regular-season series.
Poor shooting was the primary culprit in Purdue's recent loss to Wisconsin, as the home team made good only 35.4 percent of its field goal attempts, which included a dismal 3-of-17 showing from 3-point range. Couple that with the fact that the Badgers hit seven treys and went a staggering 27-of-33 at the free-throw line and it's not difficult to see why the Boilermakers came out on the short end. Terone Johnson and Bryson Scott scored 10 points apiece to pace Purdue in defeat.
Terone Johnson (13.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and Ronnie Johnson (10.6 ppg, 3.7 apg) are the team's only double-digit scorers on the season, but four others net between 6.1 and 9.7 ppg, helping Purdue generate 74.3 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .428 overall and .337 from beyond the arc. On defense, the Boilermakers are permitting 69.6 ppg, with foes converting just 40.7 percent of their total shots, which includes a 31.3 percent effort from distance. Purdue wins the rebounding battle by 4.0 rpg, and is goading the opposition into nearly 13 turnovers per outing.
Trailing by six at the break, Michigan put the clamps down on defense while at the same time getting hot from the floor as it battled back to knock off Michigan State in East Lansing last weekend. The backcourt was largely responsible for the comeback, as Derrick Walton, Jr. Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert combined for 52 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The trio knocked down 10 3-pointers, helping the team to a 57.9 percent showing from long range. Michigan State was guilty of only five turnovers, but the Wolverines claimed a 25-16 edge in points from the charity stripe, and scored 15 second- chance points compared to only four for the Spartans.
Michigan's season stats are obviously quite favorable, and while it boasts a few guys capable of controlling the action on any given night, it has been pretty much a total team effort that has led it to the top of the Big Ten standings. Stauskas leads the league in scoring with his 18.5 ppg, but seven others net between 5.1 and 13.6 ppg, with that latter figure belonging to forward Glenn Robinson III. LeVert (11.9 ppg) has also done a nice job of assisting when called upon. Overall, the Wolverines are in the black in scoring (+13.0), rebounding (+2.6) and turnovers (+2.4), all while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from 3-point land, and 75.1 percent from the foul line.