No. 8 Purdue faces No. 15 Michigan for Big Ten title
NEW YORK — Michigan will attempt to become the first team in seven years to win consecutive Big Ten Tournament titles when it faces Purdue in the final Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Ohio State was the last school to accomplish the feat in 2010 and 2011. Michigan (27-7) claimed the championship last year with a 71-56 victory over Wisconsin.
The No. 15 Wolverines, seeded fifth, knocked off No. 2 Michigan State, the top seed, 75-62 in the first semifinal Saturday before a sellout crowd of 19,812.
Michigan’s run to the title game included wins over Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan State in less than 48 hours to reach its fourth tournament championship game. The Wolverines won the title in 1998 over Purdue, lost to Michigan State in 2014 and defeated Wisconsin last year.
“When you’re playing against good teams it’s always going to be tough,” Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said. “But everybody has the same fatigue level at this point. And it’s not really a factor. We just keep playing.”
Michigan went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to open up a 36-31 lead against its in-state rival. Abdur-Rahkman (15), Zavier Simpson (15), Mortiz Wagner (15), Duncan Robinson (13) and Charles Matthews (12) all scored in double figures.
The Wolverines have had at least four players score in double figures in each of their games in this tournament. Wagner, who started off slowly with only one point in the first half Saturday, scored his 1,000th career point in the second half, becoming the 54th Wolverine to reach that milestone.
Eighth-ranked Purdue (28-5), the third seed, won its only Big Ten Tournament championship in 2009. The Boilermakers defeated Penn State 78-70 in Saturday’s second semifinal.
Purdue is 14-19 in the Big Ten Tournament, advancing to its fourth championship game following appearances in 1998, 2009 and 2016. The Boilermakers won the tournament title in 2009.
Purdue finished the first half against the Nittany Lions on a 7-0 run over the final 44 seconds to take a two-point lead into halftime, then went 9-for-10 from the floor in an 8:30 span in the second half.
Carsen Edwards (27), Isaac Haas (17) and Dakota Mathias (15) all scored in double figures in the contest.
The Boilermakers knocked off Michigan twice in the regular season, 70-69 and 92-88.
“We have to rebound the ball better,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said of his team’s third encounter with Michigan. “We have to execute. From just how we’ve played here, I think we can do a much better job in our execution.
“But no matter who we’re playing, we have to rebound the basketball better and I think that’s going to be imperative tomorrow. I think their team’s consistently getting better on the defensive end and really played hard defensively so we know it’s going to be tough to go against them.”
Michigan leads the Big Ten and is eighth in the nation in points allowed (63.6 per game).
“Definitely going to be defense for us,” Mathias said. “They (Michigan) run a good system with a lot of counters, a lot of options. Moe Wagner is one of the best players in our league. They just have just a lot of different options. Just staying tight on some of their action, being disciplined on defense is going to be huge for us.”