ANN ARBOR (AP) – Tim Hardaway Jr. can’t help but notice Michigan’s place in the latest national ranking.
With a win this weekend, the Wolverines could take over the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for the first time since the Fab Five era.
“We would be lying to you if we didn’t have that in our mind, but we really are trying to do a great job of just trying to get better as a team each and every day,” Hardaway said.
On Thursday night, that meant being more aggressive on defense, especially during the second half of a 68-53 win over Purdue. Trey Burke had 15 points and eight assists and Hardaway added 13 points. The second-ranked Wolverines shut down the Boilermakers after Purdue had made seven 3-pointers in the first half.
Michigan has a chance to move to No. 1 in the next poll if it can win at Illinois on Sunday. Duke, the current top-ranked team, lost Wednesday.
The Wolverines (18-1, 5-1 Big Ten) trailed by seven in the first half, but Purdue (10-9, 3-3) couldn’t keep up its torrid outside shooting. The Boilermakers turned the ball over 12 times.
“We’re a very low-steal team,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It’s not a strength. We’re trying to, at different times, pick your spots.”
Michigan took control with a 14-2 run in the second half. The Wolverines have won 28 of their last 29 home games – the only loss was to Purdue last February.
Terone Johnson scored 14 points for the Boilermakers.
Michigan trailed 33-32 at halftime after the Boilermakers shot 7 of 13 from 3-point range. Purdue then missed all nine of its attempts from long distance in the second half.
Glenn Robinson III – the son of the former Purdue star with the same name – made a 3-pointer to put the Wolverines ahead 42-40 and start Michigan’s decisive run.
“This was just another game for me,” Robinson said. “It was my dream early on to go to Purdue, but I know that I’m where I am supposed to be. I love Michigan. This is home.”
Burke gave Michigan some extra energy during one defensive sequence in which he nearly stole the ball at midcourt and then went diving on the floor to try to knock it free. Mitch McGary eventually stepped in front of a pass for Michigan, bringing the crowd to life.
“Once the crowd gets into it and our bench gets into it, the energy just carries,” McGary said. “That’s game changing.”
Another 3-pointer by Robinson made it 49-40, and it was 51-42 after a steal and layup by Burke.
Purdue trailed by 11 before going on a brief run to make it 53-48. Michigan freshman Nik Stauskas answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing.
The Wolverines led 60-48 after McGary dunked on a fast break.
Purdue gave Michigan all it could handle in the first half. After Burke breezed past the entire defense for a layup, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter called a timeout just 75 seconds into the game.
His team responded. D.J. Byrd’s 3-pointer from several feet beyond the arc gave Purdue a 14-9 lead, and although Michigan rallied, Byrd banked in another shot from long distance to put the Boilermakers up 28-26.
Robinson’s one-handed dunk along the baseline late in the first half gave the crowd at Crisler Center something to cheer about, but the Wolverines didn’t pull away until much later.
“I wasn’t crazy about some of our poise in the first half. We tried to hit some home runs instead of some singles,” Beilein said. “Second half, we really played smart.”
Robinson and Stauskas scored 12 points apiece. Byrd finished with 11.
“They made it a lot tougher for us in the second half,” Byrd said. “We couldn’t get the open looks we were getting in the first half, and we didn’t knock down the ones we got. It is frustrating.”
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