ANN ARBOR, Mich. — 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.”
NO. 10 GONZAGA 83, BYU 63
SPOKANE, Wash. — Kelly Olynyk scored 26 points and Elias Harris added 25 as No. 10 Gonzaga beat BYU 83-63 in a showdown for first place in the West Coast Conference.
Olynyk shot 9 for 9 from the field and 8 for 8 on free throws to go along with nine rebounds, and Harris had 10 boards for Gonzaga (18-2, 5-0), which was coming off a last-second loss at No. 9 Butler last weekend.
Josh Sharp and Brandon Davies led BYU (15-6, 5-2) with 14 points each.
Tyler Haws, the WCC scoring leader at 21 points per game coming in, was held to just one point for the Cougars. Haws had 42 points against Virginia Tech, the most by a Division I player this season. His previous low this season was nine points against Iowa State, and he had scored at least 20 in seven consecutive games coming in.
RICHMOND 86, NO. 19 VCU 74
RICHMOND, Va. — Kendall Anthony scored 21 of his 26 points after halftime and Darien Brothers hit two huge 3-pointers as Richmond needed overtime to end No. 19 VCU’s 13-game winning streak.
Brothers had 18 points and Cedrick Lindsay 13 as the Spiders (13-7, 3-2 Atlantic 10) won for only the second time in their last nine meetings with the Rams. Richmond hit 12 3-pointers with Anthony making five and Brothers four, including one with 1.5 seconds left in regulation to force the overtime, and another to clinch it with 1:35 to play in OT.
Juvonte Reddic had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Treveon Graham had 15 points, all after halftime, and 10 rebounds for VCU (16-4, 4-1), which never got its ball-hawking havoc defense unleashed against the steady Spiders.
Both teams finished with 13 turnovers and scored 17 off their takeaways.
NO. 23 MISSISSIPPI 62, TENNESSEE 56
OXFORD, Miss. — Marshall Henderson scored 28 points, hitting six 3-pointers in the second half, and No. 23 Mississippi rallied for a victory over Tennessee.
Henderson is the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer with 18.9 points per game and he put on a show after the break, nearly single-handedly carrying the Rebels (16-2, 5-0) to their eighth consecutive victory. It’s only the second time Ole Miss has started 5-0 in SEC play.
Tennessee (9-8, 1-4) led for much of the game, but couldn’t withstand Henderson’s hot shooting. Jordan McRae led the Volunteers with 26 points while Trae Golden added 11.