Today's Big Ten Tournament Final will be without a familiar face. With the loss by Ohio State on Saturday, the streak of six straight finals reached by the Buckeyes was snapped. This means that Michigan will play in their first Big Tournament final against a Michigan State team that they beat twice this season.
(1) Michigan 72 - (5) Ohio State 69
Just a day after successfully completing an 18-point comeback to win against Nebraska, Ohio State completed a comeback from an early 16-point deficit, but they weren't able to keep the lead late against the Wolverines. The victory by Michigan allowed them to earn their first game against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament after dropping their first six meetings.
Michigan got off to a dream start in the first half on Saturday afternoon, drilling three three-pointers to start the game on their way to opening up a 15-2 lead over the Buckeyes. Ohio State looked rattled early to start the game, but regrouped after Michigan opened up a 16-point lead to start trying to make a dent in the deficit, and succeeded at closing the gap by heading into halftime only down four.
The recovery by Ohio State to only be losing 41-37 at the break was impressive, especially after Michigan went 8-13 from behind the arc. Not only did Michigan hit those three three-pointers to start the game, but there was also a stretch in the first half where they hit three-pointers on four straight baskets. Ohio State was able too keep pace during that span by hitting three straight shots from long range just as Michigan finished their streak of four. From the time when Zak Irvin hit the final three during that stretch for Michigan, Ohio State finished the half on a 15-4 lead to send the teams to halftime.
The start of the second half must have felt like déjà vu for the Buckeyes, as they saw Michigan come on and drill three more three-pointers to start the 2nd half, and push the lead back to double digits at 50-39. Very quickly after that point Michigan added to that lead, and went up 54-42, which would be the biggest lead during the second half before Ohio State went to work on their next comeback.
It didn't take the Buckeyes too long to turn things around and start fighting back, which has become old habit for them lately. After treading water for a few minutes, Ohio State used a 10-2 run that was punctuated by a Sam Thompson dunk, to take their first lead of the game at 61-60.
Momentum looked to have swung to the Buckeyes side, but credit to Michigan for not panicking when Ohio State took the lead. Sam Thompson gave Ohio State a 68-65 lead with 4:12 left, but Stauskas answered back quickly with a jumper with 3:45 left. Michigan took the lead again for good at 69-68 when Glenn Robinson III hit two free throws with 2:55 left. Robinson III ended up finishing the game with 11 points.
Ohio State had a chance to send the game to overtime after Spike Albrecht split a pair of free throws, missing the second one. Aaron Craft grabbed the rebound and sprinted down court with less than 10 seconds left, but was foiled when he lost control of the basketball and Michigan gained possession of it and time went on to expire in the first semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament. The miscue from Craft marred a game in which he scored nine points, grabbed seven rebounds, and had six assists.
One of the surprises in the game for Ohio State was that Shannon Scott was the better offensive option over Craft in the game. The junior from Georgia tied a career-high with 18 points and nailed four three-pointers. Adding to his statline, Scott had six assists, five rebounds, and three steals. To compliment what Scott was able to do on the court, LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes with 19 points, and also went up and got seven rebounds. The numbers gave Ross 64 points and 37 rebounds in three games in Indianapolis over the past three days.
Michigan was paced by four three-pointers from Stauskas as he finished with 18 points. Close on Stauskas' heels was Pickerington native Caris LeVert, who had 17 points and seven rebounds. LeVert is looking to be quite the signing after originally committing to Ohio University, but re-opening his commitment after former Ohio State assistant John Groce left the Bobcats after taking the Illinois head coaching job after the 2012 college basketball season.
(3) Michigan State 83 - (2) Wisconsin 75
After losing to Wisconsin 60-58 back on February 9th in Madison, Michigan State had a couple players that they didn't have in the first matchup, and it showed on the scoreline. Branden Dawson put together his second strong game in a row after returning a couple weeks ago from injuries, scoring 14 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Keith Appling also was healthy for Saturday's matchup and added 10 points and six assists, securing Michigan State's spot in the final today against in-state rival Michigan.
The Spartans came out firing early in Indianapolis, jumping out to a early 7-0 advantage, not allowing Wisconsin to hold the lead at any point in the game. The closest that Wisconsin was able to close the deficit to the rest of the game was when Frank Kaminsky hit a three-pointer to make the score 7-5 with 16:55 left in the first half.
The rest of the first half was all Michigan State, as the Spartans went on a 18-3 run to push their lead to 37-16 towards the end of the first half. The hot shooter that helped Michigan State gain and maintain their lead was Denzel Valentine, who hit three three-pointers in the first half as the Spartans opened up a 43-26 halftime lead. Valentine finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds in the game.
The second half was more of the same for Michigan State, with Wisconsin not being able to cut into that lead until it was too late. For most of the second half Michigan State held a double-digit lead, and the closest that Wisconsin was able to get was when they pulled to 81-75 with just 16 seconds to go.
Most of Wisconsin's offense in the game came from Frank Kaminsky, who finished the game with 28 points for the Badgers. What Wisconsin got on Friday that they didn't get on Saturday was production from their bench. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig combined for 29 points against Minnesota Friday night, but together only accounted for three points off tgs bench on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Michigan State didn't need any help from their bench as the starters did just fine by themselves. Each Michigan State starter scored at least 10 points, with Adrian Payne leading the way with 18 points. While Michigan State didn't need any help from their bench, Travis Trice still did what he could, adding 11 points in the game.
Not only will Michigan State be at full health against Michigan today, but they will be eager to score a victory against their rivals after losing both meetings so far this season.
The first matchup between the teams came on January 25th when the Spartans were still ranked third in the country. Nick Stauskas broke the tie with a three-pointer with just over three minutes to go as the Wolverines took the lead for good against the under-manned Spartans. Both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson missed the game due to injury, and Keith Appling was far from 100%. This left Gary Harris to try and pick up the slack, and he did an admirable job, scoring 27 points, but he didn't get much help from the other Spartans. The 19 points from Stauskas and Derrick Walton Jr, along with 17 points from Caris LeVert helped Michigan snap Michigan State's 11-game winning streak.
Stauskas was even better in the second matchup on February 23rd in Ann Arbor, drilling 21 of his 25 points in the second half, as Michigan was able to rebound from a 11-point first half deficit to register a 79-70 win. The Wolverines used a 13-0 run in the second half to take the lead for good after trailing 52-51. Along with Stauskas' efforts, Caris LeVert added 23 points.
Michigan State did have Adreian Payne for the second matchup, who scored 12 points, and hauled down 11 rebounds in the losing effort. Branden Dawson was still missing from the second matchup due to injury, and Keith Appling was still less than 100% and finished with just six points. The one constant in both matchups for Michigan State was Gary Harris, who scored 21 in the second meeting.