Michigan basketball slugfest with Purdue felt like two gladiators going toe to toe in a cage match that nobody wanted to say I quit.
It took until double overtime for someone to finally throw in the white flag Thursday night in Ann Arbor. Purdue played about as well as you can ask a road team to do so, but Michigan basketball just had a little bit more fuel left in the tank at the end.
The Boilermakers nearly stole the show in regulation and sent the crowd home unhappy. However, the Wolverines knew what was at stake in the Big Ten race and refused to leave Crisler without a victory.
Zavier Simpson stepped up in a big way for an absent Isaiah Livers. He only made one triple on the night, but it was a timely one in the second overtime. His slashing through the paint accounted for nine assists and contested made buckets. For the year, Simpson is averaging nine assists a game and that seems to be the magic number for the Wolverines to pull out victories. He also scored one of the buckets of his career to push the game into OT.
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David DeJulius continues to grow and impress. He played 31 minutes, eight minutes above his average, including both overtime periods. The biggest factor of his play really led to how well Simpson performed though. It opened up the floor for both guards to get good looks for others on shots and keep feeding the offensive attack. Coach Howard will likely have no limitations on the three-guard lineup of Simpson, DeJulius, and Brooks if it keeps producing these results.
On the negative side of things, Jon Teske couldn’t handle Trevion Williams. He had the night of his life, while shooting 57% from the floor. Teske, time and time again, let Williams work his way into the paint for easy shots. Teske’s defense should have cost the Wolverines a loss, but didn’t. Heading into the heart of the Big Ten schedule, the 7-footer’s defense has got to be counted on to improve for Michigan basketball to withstand the gamut.
Daniel Oturu and Luka Garza have to be salivating after watching Trevion Williams destroy Michigan’s interior defense. Oturu is Minnesota’s leading scorer and Garza went off for 44 points in the December win over Iowa. With these two big men next up on the docket, Coach Howard has to amp up the emphasis on his team’s defense in practice immediately.
Coming off a double-overtime, momentum-building win that took an extra 10 minutes of play will also play its part. Michigan basketball will try to avoid hitting the proverbial wall of exhaustion while playing its third game in a week on Sunday.
Traveling won’t help, but if the maize and blue can get a healthy Livers back, then anything can happen especially with the recent successful history playing in Minneapolis.