ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Moe Wagner is becoming a fan favorite at Michigan — and the type of sharp-shooting big man the Wolverines haven’t always had.
Wagner scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half, outplaying everyone on Purdue’s vaunted front line and leading Michigan to an 82-70 victory over the 14th-ranked Boilermakers on Saturday. The 6-foot-11 Wagner went 10 of 15 from the field and made four 3-pointers.
“He is so loved by his teammates,” said coach John Beilein, who moved within one victory of tying Johnny Orr’s school record of 209. “He doesn’t have a bad word to say about anybody. He is so caring for his teammates — got a high level of empathy for every one of them, and he works his tail off every day. It’s a lot of love on this team, and Moe has really promoted that.”
Derrick Walton added 17 points and 11 rebounds in his final scheduled home game, and the Wolverines (19-10, 9-7 Big Ten) took another big step toward an NCAA Tournament berth. Michigan has won five of six, including victories over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue.
The Boilermakers (23-6, 12-4) had their six-game winning streak snapped and could fall into a tie for first in the Big Ten with Wisconsin if the Badgers win at Michigan State on Sunday.
Caleb Swanigan scored 18 points for Purdue, but the Boilermakers couldn’t take full advantage of their edge in size. The 6-foot-9 Swanigan and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas combined to outscore Wagner by only two points.
“Wagner had a great game,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He was the difference — not just the first half, but I thought the whole game, just from setting the tone, even though he didn’t score much in the second half.”
Michigan made seven consecutive shots to take a 33-20 lead on a 3-pointer by Walton. Wagner added a 3 moments later, giving him the same number of points (20) as Purdue’s whole team. His ability to step out and shoot from the perimeter was giving the Boilermakers all sorts of problems .
“That’s what Coach Beilein wants from his offense, is having a ‘five’ that can be able to do that,” said guard Spike Albrecht, who played at Michigan from 2012-16 before joining Purdue as a graduate transfer. “It makes them very dangerous, and then with the guards that they have, they’re a really good team. I’m excited to watch them going forward.”
Duncan Robinson’s fadeaway 3-pointer from the right corner gave the Wolverines a 45-30 lead at halftime, and although some foul problems limited Wagner in the second half, Michigan got enough contributions to maintain a comfortable lead.
Xavier Simpson and D.J. Wilson made 3-pointers to put the Wolverines up 63-42. When Purdue cut the lead to 11, Wagner was there for a putback to make it 70-57.
The Boilermakers trailed 73-67 after an 8-0 run late in the second half, but with the shot clock running down, Walton leaned inside of Purdue’s P.J. Thompson to sink a 3-pointer that pushed the lead back to nine with 1:43 to play.
“It wasn’t a good shot. I’ve never shot that shot before. It’s not like one of those shots you can practice,” Walton said. “God was definitely looking out for me on that shot.”
Purdue: The Boilermakers did a better job establishing their inside game in the second half, but the deficit was simply too big. Purdue’s height was in many ways negated by Wagner’s ability to play on the perimeter.
Michigan: The Wolverines are now assured of at least a .500 record in the Big Ten regular season, and Wagner’s emergence means they can beat good teams even when someone such as Irvin has an off day.
Michigan held a pregame ceremony honoring seniors that had Wagner a bit emotional, even though the forward from Germany is only a sophomore and wasn’t part of it.
“I was a little speechless after the ceremony,” Wagner said. “I was like, ‘How am I supposed to play now? Can we do that afterwards?'”
Aside from Walton’s big game, Zak Irvin scored four points, and fellow seniors Mark Donnal and Sean Lonergan got in the game as well.
Albrecht went scoreless in 12 minutes against his former team.
“I think it was a little more weird than I expected,” Albrecht said. “Playing against them, the crowd, hearing the crowd roar when they’re going on runs.”
Purdue could be passed by 15th-ranked Cincinnati, but the Boilermakers might not be punished too much in the ranking . No. 16 Wisconsin lost at Ohio State on Thursday.
Purdue: The Boilermakers host Indiana on Tuesday night.
Michigan: The Wolverines finish the regular season with two road games, the first of which comes Wednesday night at Northwestern.