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Purdue advances to first Big Ten tournament final since 2009

INDIANAPOLIS – Michigan lost what potentially could have been an NCAA berth-clinching victory, falling to Purdue 76-59 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. Now the real competition begins for the Wolverines (22-12). They’ll be pitted against the rest of the pool, fighting for one of 36 at-large bids to the Big Dance.

Purdue (26-7) advanced to the Big Ten tournament championship for the first time since 2009, which was also the last time it won the title.

Knowing your limitations

Purdue’s backcourt takes a lot of heat for essentially not being as talented as its frontcourt. But the Boilermakers don’t need their starting guard tandem of P.J. Thompson and Rapheal Davis to be great for the team to be good.

The duo plays under control. Thompson and Davis combined for 10 assists and zero turnovers.

They don’t force shots. They combined to shoot 4-of-9 for 12 points.

And most importantly, they know where the strength of the team is. Early in the game they made sure to get the ball inside to A.J. Hammons or Caleb Swanigan on just about every possession.

Too tall to fail

Purdue capitalized on its size advantage inside from the start. The Boilermakers scored their first 8 points in the paint en route to 44 for the game. Michigan freshman center Moritz Wagner, after being called for a second-half foul while defending Hammons in the post, turned to an official and said, “I don’t know what to do.”

The Wolverines as a whole couldn’t quite figure it out this time. When they cut a 17-point deficit to 6, Purdue immediately went to Hammons, who went to work on Mark Donnal for consecutive baskets inside. Hammons finished with 27 points. Reserve center Isaac Haas also scored 11 off the bench.

In their regular-season meetings, the Boilermakers scored 42 points in the paint in their 87-70 win over Michigan on Jan. 7 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Michigan held Purdue to just 20 points in the paint on Feb. 13 in its 61-56 win in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Death by 3

The Wolverines attempt a greater percentage of 3-pointers (39.3 percent) than any other team in the Big Ten and rank 17th nationally, according to Ken Pomeroy. Had a few more of those shots fallen against the Boilermakers, maybe they would have completed their comeback.

Michigan shot just 6-of-25 from behind the arc, including 1-for-7 by Zak Irvin. When the Wolverines defeated Purdue on Feb. 13, Irvin made 4 of 8 from deep.