The Michigan Wolverines entered Thursday night as one of the hottest teams in America, having begun Big 10 play with a sparkling 7-0 mark, but when they left Crisler Center after defeating Purdue, 75-66, they were further cemented as one of the most dangerous teams in the country.
In all actuality, it was a “slow start” for the Wolverines, as they ran into unexpected issues with ball security in the first half. Michigan is historically one of the best teams in the nation with regard to avoid turnovers (they commit just 9 per game), but John Beilein’s team gave it away 8 times in the opening frame. Still, their shooting prowess (13-for-24 from the field, 4-for-7 from three) helped “Go Blue” to take an 8-point lead into the break, and that was more than enough.
From there, Nik Stauskas and company put their foot on the gas and simply ran away from the less-talented Boilermakers. Michigan went on a 13-4 spurt early in the second half that opened up a 15-point lead at 54-39, and their offense kept up that ridiculous pace for the remainder of the night. All told, the Wolverines shot 61% from the field and 54% from 3-point distance (7-for-13) in route to those 75 points, and if not for the turnover issues (16 in total), it would have been much worse.
Stauskas, who is a leading candidate for the Wooden Award this season, finished with 16 points, 3 assists, and 3 blocks (!) on the day, but he was mostly overshadowed by a breakout effort from his wing mate, Caris LeVert. LeVert put up a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but he was an all-court contributor, as he added 2 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks for good measure. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. also got into the act with 14 points (6-for-7 from the field), and the perimeter assault from Michigan easily propelled them to the win.
At 8-0 in Big 10 play, it seems as if the Wolverines are well on their way to a potential conference championship. When you consider that they are doing this without arguably their best player in Mitch McGary, it is downright scary what John Beilein has been able to accomplish.