INDIANAPOLIS – As the Duane Washington Jr. 3-pointer bounced off the rim, Justice Sueing positioned himself underneath the basket, rose up and reeled it in. With haste, he bounced off the ground and put laid the ball off the glass and through the hoop. Screams of Sueing, Ohio State's bench and the scarlet and gray-clad fans in attendance rang throughout Lucas Oil Stadium.
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On that single play, Sueing put the Buckeyes up, 61-50, with 5:17 remaining and fouled out Franz Wagner, Michigan wing expected to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft in a few months. In that moment, if you were to let your mind wander, it began to feel a little bit more real than at any prior point in the past few days that Ohio State really might pull this off and advance to the Big Ten tournament championship.
Five minutes of action – and some drama – later, it became a reality. The Buckeyes, the fifth seed, knocked off top-seeded Michigan, 68-67, on Saturday afternoon to advance to the final game of the conference tournament.
Sueing's and-one came in the midst of a 7-point run that allowed Ohio State to extend a six-point lead to 13 points on free throws from E.J. Liddell with 4:19 left. Michigan, with starting center Hunter Dickinson scoring five points in a 40-second span, got within seven points of the Buckeyes with 2:44 left. Then, it got worse.
|24-57 (42.1%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||20-57 (35.1%)|
|12-22 (54.5%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||6-19 (34.6%)|
|8-14 (57.1%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||21-23 (91.3%)|
The Buckeyes could not weather the second-half offensive struggles that put them in danger of potentially losing to Minnesota and Purdue in their prior two tournament games. Liddell twice turned it over within the final two minutes, putting Michigan within four points with less than a minute to play. Chaundee Brown hit a triple with 48 seconds left to cut Ohio State's lead to 68-67. CJ Walker stepped out of bounds with 28 seconds left, but Mike Smith missed a jumper that could have won it to end the game.
The shootout that the first Ohio State-Michigan game developed into didn't replicate itself on Saturday – at least, in the first half.
Ohio State shot 30.3 percent from the floor and went 0-for-4 from the free-throw line, yet its 6-for-13 mark from 3-point range and eight offensive boards kept the six-point underdogs in striking distance. Michigan, conversely, did most of its damage from the foul line (9-of-10) while struggling from outside the arc (2-of-9). It hit just 29.6 percent of field goals in the first half, too.
Dickinson, Juwan Howard's 7-foot-1 center, had what was seemingly an injury scare within the first few possessions of the game, calling for a substitution. Per the CBS broadcast, though, he hit funny bone. Once back in the action, his presence down low helped Michigan go blow for blow in the middle of the opening half. A four-and-a-half minute stretch without an Ohio State basketball – which ended with an E.J. Liddell layup with 1:13 left – allowed Michigan to grab hold of the lead entering halftime. But it went into the break only up, 27-26, due to a Seth Towns triple with 32 ticks remaining.
Next up: Ohio State moves on to face the winner of Illinois-Iowa in the Big Ten championship on Sunday. The game will tip off at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on CBS.
- Senior forward Kyle Young sat out the game due to a concussion. He continues to go through the daily medical protocols, and it's unclear when he might be back on the court for the Buckeyes.
- Chris Holtmann turned to Musa Jallow, a fourth-year wing, as his fifth starter in place of Young. With CJ Walker coming off the bench, he went with Duane Washington Jr., Justin Ahrens, Musa Jallow, Justice Sueing and E.J. Liddell.
- This week, Holtmann won more than one game in a conference tournament for the first time in his career. He also picked up his 200th win as a head coach on Friday.
- This was the second Ohio State-Michigan game of the season. They met once in the regular season, and the Wolverines came out on top, 92-87.
- If Ohio State pulls off a season-long sweep of Michigan, its players are awarded Gold Jerseys. Those were implemented following the 2020-21 season. However, since the Buckeyes already fell to Juwan Howard's team on Feb. 21, they were unable to earn those Gold Jerseys regardless of Saturday's result.