By Teddy Gutkin
Big man Moritz Wagner was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. In the championship game, Wagner scored 17 points, shooting 7-11 from the field and drilling three triples. Wagner knocked down a turnaround three as the shot clock expired to put Michigan up by 14 with 12:07 remaining in the second half. The shot was one of the game’s best highlights, and it brought fans at the Garden to their feet to draw some of the loudest cheers of the night.
“Obviously it's a good feeling when the ball goes in and the Garden cheers for you,” Wagner said. “It's pretty cool.”
While Wagner took home MVP honors, the game’s true star was backup center John Teske. Teske, who scored 14 points, 12 of which came in the first half, entered the game after Wagner picked up an early foul just two minutes into the game. Teske helped energize the Wolverine faithful with a monster dunk to put Michigan up 9-7. His sensational play even drew chants of “Teske” from the rafters, providing much-needed recognition for a player who has flown under the radar all season long.
“I really have no words to explain,” Teske said after the game.
Speaking of having no words to explain, the turnaround that the Wolverines have seen from sophomore guard Zavier Simpson has been nothing short of incredible. After an inconsistent regular season, Simpson put together a sensational Big Ten tournament, playing lockdown defense against some of the Big Ten’s premier guards. He capped off his stunning stretch by limiting National Player of the Year candidate Carsen Edwards to just 12 points on 4-12 shooting. Simpson also had 2 steals to go along with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists.
“We wanted to play great defense from the start so our energy could be contagious,” Simpson said on the team’s impressive defensive performance.
Michigan head coach John Beilein also spoke highly of his point guard, providing an unusual comparison.
“We have a picture of a big, mean pitbull in our locker room for every game,” Beilein said. “And he is that guy. He's one that loves to play defense.”
For the Boilermakers, the loss is disappointing, especially after they went on a 19-game winning streak that included two wins against these same Wolverines.
“We've got to play together,” Painter said when asked about what the team must improve on for the NCAA Tournament. “We've got to be unselfish and move the basketball.”
Purdue was led by senior C Isaac Haas, who scored a game-high 23 points on 9-12 shooting. Vincent and Carsen Edwards, who normally make up one of the nation’s most dangerous backcourts, combined to score a mere 16 points thanks to the impressive defense of Simpson and senior G Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who scored 15 points and earned All-Tournament Team honors himself.
After winning their second consecutive Big Ten title, Michigan will have about a ten days off before earning a what will likely be a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
No matter what happens, this has been one of the best regular seasons in Wolverines history, and this tournament victory is one that could very well propel Michigan to even greater heights this March.
Moe Wagner, F, Michigan (17 points, 2 rebounds, 7-11 FG, 3-6 3PT)
Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, G, Michigan (15 points, 4 assists, 4-8 FG, 3-5 3PT)
Isaac Haas, C, Purdue (23 points, 8 rebounds, 9-12 FG)