No. 3 Purdue aims to avoid letdown vs. last-place Michigan

Author:
Sportsnaut

Worst meets first in the Big Ten Conference on Sunday afternoon when No. 3 Purdue travels to take on last-place Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Purdue (24-3, 13-3 Big Ten) improved to 14-0 at home Thursday night, charging to a 96-68 victory over a Rutgers team that was ranked second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Meanwhile, short-handed Michigan (8-19, 3-13) fell 76-62 to Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., the Wolverines’ ninth loss in 10 games.

Purdue sports an .888 winning percentage, its best mark since the 1931-32 Boilermakers went 17-1.

Purdue, which had a nine-game win streak end at Ohio State on Feb. 18, came out against Rutgers with a purpose. The Boilermakers scorched the Scarlet Knights for 52 points in the first half and led by as many as 37 while cruising to an easy win.

Zach Edey, the reigning national player of the year, led Purdue with 25 points, going 7-for-8 on field-goal attempts and 11-for-11 from the free-throw line. Camden Heide was 7-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 from 3-point range while scoring 18 points in just 19 minutes.

“We know who we are through a loss and through a win,” Edey said. “Anytime you have a loss, you want to come out the next game and prove we’re the same team and nothing has changed.”

Purdue coach Matt Painter said, “To put 96 points up on them is something we haven’t done. We might have done it a long time ago, but we haven’t been able to open up and score against them (recently). They’ve made it difficult for us. This was a big night for us.”

The Boilermakers’ offense goes through Edey (23.3 points, 11.7 rebounds per game), while guards Lance Jones (12.9 ppg), Braden Smith (12.8 ppg, 7.1 assists per game) and Fletcher Loyer (10.2 ppg) attack from the perimeter.

Michigan should get a boost for the Purdue game with the return of leading scorer Dug McDaniel. The point guard served the last game of his six-road-game suspension for academic issues on Thursday. However, the Wolverines have lost No. 2 scorer Olivier Nkamhoua (14.8 ppg) for the season after he underwent left wrist surgery this week.

Sixth man Will Tschetter also missed the Northwestern game with an illness. Nimari Burnett led Michigan with 15 points against the Wildcats.

With a .296 winning percentage and four regular-season games remaining, the Wolverines will try to avoid being the worst Michigan team since the 1981-82 squad went 7-20.

McDaniel leads the Wolverines at 16.6 points and 4.6 assists per game while Terrance Williams II averages 12.4 points and 4.4 rebounds a game.

There are rumblings in Ann Arbor that coach Juwan Howard’s job may be at risk. Howard owns an 87-67 record in five seasons in charge of his alma mater.

“We’ve got to control the controllable, the guys who suit up,” Howard said. “I trust we have enough to go out and compete. … It was hard, I can’t kid you. There were times we only had six guys at practice that were available. Another moment, we had eight guys available for practice.”

–Field Level Media

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