No. 3 Michigan Beats No. 4 Ohio State, 92-87, In Battle Of National Championship Contenders

By Colin Hass-Hill on February 21, 2021 at 3:04 pm
E.J. Liddell

Billed as the first-ever top-five matchup between Ohio State and Michigan in their storied histories, the action at the Schottenstein Center on Sunday afternoon matched all of the pregame hype. Two of college basketball's best offenses took it to each other, both shooting better than 50 percent from the field, knocking down tough shots and making 3s in a wild showing of two national championship contenders.

Team 1 2 FINAL
#3 MICHIGAN 45 47 92
#4 OHIO STATE 43 44 87

Ohio State, however, couldn't secure its eighth win in a row.

In the only regular season matchup between these two teams, Juwan Howard's third ranked Wolverines pulled ahead to a game-high lead of eight points in the final minute, holding off a late charge from the third-ranked Buckeyes to beat them, 92-87. Ohio State dropped to 18-5 overall and 12-5 in the Big Ten, staying in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament but effectively ending any hope of a Big Ten title.

A mind-numbing Justice Sueing turnover led to Isaiah Livers getting out on the fast break and converting an and-one to put Michigan on top, 80-74 with 2:33 remaining. E.J. Liddell drained a pair of free throws to chop the deficit to four, but Hunter Dickinson's put-back layup put the Wolverines back up by six –tying the largest lead of the game – with 1:37 left. Liddell subsequently got his shot blocked, allowing Michigan to maintain a two-possession lead into the final minute.

An Eli Brooks layup put Michigan ahead, 84-76, with 53 ticks left, and Justice Sueing's 3-pointer closed the gap to five points a mere six seconds later. Mike Smith's free throws gave Michigan a seven-point edge, and Brooks' foul shots made it a nine-point advantage that all but sealed the result. A triple by Duane Washington Jr. with 3.4 seconds left cut it to a three-point deficit, then Brooks' free throws essentially ended it.

Importantly, E.J. Liddell and Washington powered an Ohio State offense in need of its best players to be at their best. They ensured the Buckeyes could – almost – go bucket for bucket against a Michigan defense that entered the day seventh in adjusted efficiency. Liddell recorded his third double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Washington put in a career-high 30 points. Their contributions weren't enough, though.

87 POINTS 92
32-60 (53.3%) FGM-FGA (PCT.) 31-58 (53.4%)
11-22 (50.0%) 3PM-3PA (PCT.) 11-23 (47.8%)
12-13 (92.3%) FTM-FTA (PCT.) 19-24 (79.2%)

Freshman center Hunter Dickinson led Michigan with 22 points, and four of his teammates scored in double-figures.

The pair of high-powered offenses hit each other with haymaker after haymaker early in Sunday's game, with neither team leading more than six points in the first half – and even that lead by Michigan with 5:02 left lasted all of 24 seconds.

A shaky Ohio State defense concerned with the presence of 7-foot-2 center Hunter Dickinson in the middle let Michigan have a few too many open looks from 3, leading to the Wolverines shooting a ridiculous 10-for-13 from behind the arc in the first half. Four Michigan players made multiple 3s in the opening 20 minutes. Behind 14 first-half points from E.J. Liddell and 12 from Duane Washington Jr. 

Neither Ohio State maintained a slight edge for most of the first nine minutes before Michigan pulled ahead on back-to-back Chaundee Brown threes, after both of which the guard turned to the home bench to offer a few words. The Wolverines lost the edge when Meechie Johnson drained a triple with 2:47 remaining but entered halftime up 45-43 after a buzzer-beating Eli Brooks layup went through the net.

Both Ohio State (17-for-32) and Michigan (17-for-30) shot better than 50 percent from the field. The Buckeyes' 19 combined points off turnovers and second-chance points were enough to keep it tight despite Michigan setting the Schottenstein Center nets on fire with its open 3s.

Next up: Ohio State goes to East Lansing to take on Michigan State on Thursday. They'll face each other at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

Other Notes

  • Chris Holtmann didn't deviate from the starting five he has used since the middle of January when CJ Walker and Jimmy Sotos went out with injuries. He rolled with Duane Washington Jr., Justin Ahrens, Justice Sueing, Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell. Juwan Howard started a lineup of Mike Smith, Eli Brooks, Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Hunter Dickinson.
  • Chris Holtmann entered the day with an all-time record of 3-3 versus Michigan and a 2-0 mark versus Juwan Howard. Overall, the Buckeyes came into Sunday with a 99-78 lead in the all-time series, beating the Wolverines in 14 of 16 games at the Schottenstein Center.
  • Musa Jallow was ruled unavailable to play against Michigan due to an ankle injury. He joined Jimmy Sotos (separated shoulder) and Ibrahima Diallo (sprained MCL) as out. 
  • Kyle Young and Seth Towns were both "banged up" in the prior game a few days ago, per Holtmann. They both, however, warmed up as usual and played their normal minutes.
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