Without Mitch McGary, the production of veteran big men Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan has become even more important for No. 10 Michigan. While neither needs to turn into a player who will post 20 points and ten rebounds on a nightly basis, as the Wolverines have other players more capable of scoring, they do have to be productive players who make the most of their time on the floor.
Recently it’s been Morgan who’s stepped up, and on Thursday night the fifth-year season accounted for 11 points and six rebounds in Michigan’s 75-66 win over Purdue. Horford added four points, three rebounds and two assists, and the 15 points and nine rebounds combined from Michigan’s interior tandem was more than enough against the struggling Boilermakers. Nik Stauskas scored 16 points and Caris LeVert (11 rebounds) and Derrick Walton Jr. added 14 apiece to lead the way offensively for Michigan, which shot 60.9% from the field and 7-for-13 from beyond the arc.
There were issues for Michigan however, as the Wolverines turned the ball over 16 times (Stauskas and LeVert had four apiece) and they weren’t at their best on the defensive glass either. Purdue managed to rebound 39.5% of its missed shots, scoring 19 second-chance points and 48 points in the paint.
With an eye towards the bigger games remaining in Big Ten play, the rebounding and points allowed in the paint are areas the Wolverines will need to address after this victory. Entering the game Michigan had done a good job of keeping teams off the offensive glass, rebounding more than 72% of their opponents’ missed shots. They got away from that some on Thursday night but due to their shooting percentages it didn’t prove to be an issue against Purdue.
That may not be the case against better competition, which makes the progression of Morgan and Horford important as the season approaches March. If those two can combine to help Michigan control the glass and the paint, John Beilein’s team will be even tougher to beat.