| Detroit Free Press
Michigan basketball did not play a clean basketball game Friday night.
The Wolverines struggled to hold onto the ball, turning it over 14 times. They shot just 44.6% from the field.
But U-M’s defense held Purdue to its lowest-scoring game of the season in a 70-53 victory on Friday night, and the Wolverines left Mackey Arena with sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.
Michigan jumped out to an early 10-point lead in the first half and led by double digits for much of the game.
Isaiah Livers led all scorers with 22 points and added 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Eli Brooks added 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting.
Michigan’s defense stands tall
The Wolverines played as well on defense as they have all season in the first half, holding Purdue to just 0.70 points per possession and a 2 of 14 start from the field. Michigan didn’t let Boilermaker center Trevion Williams establish himself down low; Williams, Purdue’s leading scorer, scored just five points on 2 of 7 shooting in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines guarded the 3-point line tightly, keeping the Boilermakers without a made 3-pointer in the first 20 minutes. The stingy defense allowed Michigan to open up an early 14-4 lead, and even when U-M’s offense faltered at times, the defense helped the Wolverines maintain that early advantage.
The defense did not let up in the second half, as Purdue shot just 11 of 37 (29.7%) in the final 20 minutes and rarely found easy looks.
Seniors lead the way
Livers and Brooks have played a lot of winning basketball but Friday’s game seemed to highlight why they are so important to this season’s team. After scoring a game-high 20 points in Tuesday’s win over Maryland, Livers scored a game-high 22 points Friday, and he did it without dominating the ball.
Livers’ utility as a scorer comes from his shooting, and he hit three crucial 3s Friday’s that helped kickstart a struggling offense. He also picked up a loose ball and dunked in transition and played tough defense, finishing with numerous contests at the rim. It was an all-around performance from the senior forward, one that Michigan needed on a night when it didn’t play its cleanest basketball.
Brooks, meanwhile, was everywhere on the court. As Purdue tried to muster a second-half comeback, he drove to his left and finished over Boilermaker 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey. Brooks played his trademark defense, stifling Purdue’s guards and preventing easy dribble penetration. U-M’s defense is simply not the same when Brooks isn’t on the floor, and his ball-handling and knowledge of the offense allows the Wolverines to get by with just two true guards in the rotation because Juwan Howard can either play Brooks and Mike Smith together or stagger lineups with at least one of the two in the game.
Another quiet game from Dickinson
Michigan star freshman center Hunter Dickinson scored in double digits in his first 11 games, despite coming off the bench in the first five contests. But he has seen his scoring output dip recently. Some opponents, like Minnesota, deserve credit for forcing the ball out of Dickinson’s hands with aggressive double teams. But he also has struggled with turnovers and is not shooting well at the rim; at Purdue, Dickinson finished with 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting and six turnovers.
Dickinson did add a key basket late in the second half when Williams gambled on a steal attempt by catching the ball and finishing despite being fouled (he also made the ensuing free throw). He also defended Williams well and was a huge reason why the Purdue center shot just 6 of 19. Still, it’s a credit to the Wolverines’ depth and defense that they held a double-digit lead for most of Friday’s game despite the quiet performance from their leading scorer.