COLUMBUS, Ohio – Just when it looked like Ohio State was going to upend another ranked foe, it reverted to its old ways. The Buckeyes led by double digits over Michigan in the first half Tuesday night and eight in the second half before it all evaporated, thanks to mistakes not seen since January.
Poor free throw shooting, failure to grab rebounds and miscues on defense were all present as the Wolverines went on a 12-0 run midway through the second half en route to a 70-60 win. They outscored Ohio State 33-17 over the final 12 minutes. It was an all too familiar collapse for the Buckeyes.
“You can’t get comfortable. We found a way to go on the road and get a couple wins, and today we didn’t have it,” senior point guard Aaron Craft said. “Today, we weren’t the tougher basketball team down the stretch. That’s what hurts.”
LaQuinton Ross led Ohio State with 24 points and seven rebounds, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 13 points.
Michigan dominated the second half, shooting 52 percent from the field and nearly 60 percent from long range. The No. 15 Wolverines outrebounded Ohio State 39-27 overall and 14-8 on the offensive glass. They scored 11 second-chance points and had 18 bench points.
The 22nd-ranked Buckeyes were 3-of-20 from three-point range.
“We definitely wanted to limit them to one shot and try and get offensive putbacks,” Michigan forward Jordan Morgan said. “It was a team mentality on offense. We came up with some loose balls and fought for some rebounds that could have gone either way. It really made a difference in the game.”
Nik Stauskas scored 15 points for Michigan on just four field goals. He made three 3s and four free throws. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and Zak Irvin had 10 points.
Ohio State held a 26-16 advantage with a little over five minutes left in the first half, but missed nine of its final 10 shots. It allowed the Wolverines to creep back in and they closed to within one late in the half. The Buckeyes’ next field goal didn’t come until the 18-minute mark of the second half, a drought of more than eight minutes.
“It probably started with our defense, getting some momentum and getting stops,” Morgan said.
In many ways, it was a tale of two halves. Michigan began the game 5-of-22 before its turnaround, while Ohio State shot nearly 70 percent during the opening 10 minutes and then quickly went south.
“They got inside on us and [created mismatches],” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “They got a couple big rebounds and we had to defend again and defend again. “From what I saw, we went to block some shots and the rotation wasn’t there.”
The loss is a setback for the Buckeyes’ redemption tour. They’d rebuilt their image and reputation by defeating two ranked opponents on the road and winning three consecutive games. But all of Ohio State’s deficiencies were there for everyone to see during Michigan’s second-half onslaught.
This season’s been defined by the unordinary, going against the grain at every turn. The Buckeyes’ horrid January stretch got further in the rearview mirror with each passing win. Losses to cellar-dwellers Nebraska and Penn State seemed like ancient history, but visions of those performances appeared Tuesday night at inopportune moments.
“We didn’t have the execution we needed,” Matta said. “We had a couple careless turnovers.”
Michigan ended a nine-game losing streak inside Value City Arena, winning its first game in the building since 2003 and only its second ever. Ohio State has lost three home games this season, its most since 2007-08.
“The atmosphere in here was tremendous,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said. “It felt like a Final Four game.”
The Buckeyes, once again .500 in the conference, travel to their personal house of horrors – Illinois’ Assembly Hall – for a Saturday night main event.
“I don’t think it will be difficult [to bounce back],” Ross said. “I think everyone is going to come back to practice with a different mentality. Guys will be down tonight, but we have to look forward. We have six games left in the Big Ten and have to be ready for those.”