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Ohio State falls to No. 5 Michigan 65-49 in physical contest

A horrid second half doomed the Buckeyes after a hot start.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes (13-7, 3-6) began 2019 with a five-game losing streak before getting their first win of the calendar year with a 70-60 victory over Nebraska on Saturday. However, on the road for the second-straight game, the Buckeyes fell to the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines (20-1, 9-1) 65-49 on Tuesday night.

As should be expected, the rivalry game was intense and physical throughout. Though Kaleb Wesson wasn’t in foul trouble until more than halfway through the second half, it felt like he was being knocked to the floor on every other possession, with foul calls few and far between.

With all of the talk about Ohio State’s best lineup perhaps being small, Kaleb Wesson made his presence felt early on, scoring OSU’s first five points thanks to a three-pointer and a fall-away putback (which could have earned a foul on Michigan). He also had a pair of early rebounds and an assist in the first three and a half minutes.

Through the first 10 minutes, the Buckeyes held a lead over the Wolverines thanks to uncharacteristically hot shooting from deep. While only hitting on three of their first six attempts, 50 percent from behind the arc is a marked improvement from where Holtmann’s squad had been recently.

However, Michigan’s defense was posing problems for OSU, having turned the Buckeyes over five times in the first 10 minutes. Fortunately for Ohio State, those turnovers led to only two points.

The Wolverines tied the game up for the first time with 7:50 remaining in the first half when Isaiah Livers hit a three-pointer. They then took the lead after a questionable foul call on Kaleb Wesson thanks to a triple from Jordan Poole. Their 22-19 advantage was TTUN’s first lead of the game.

A big story of the first was Kaleb Wesson’s energy on both ends of the floor. He was a dominant force on the boards, but he appeared to be getting beaten up down low with little to no support from the referees.

After Holtmann subbed an exhausted younger Wesson out, C.J. Jackson took control for the Bucks, hitting a pair of free three throws and then converting the old-fashioned three-point play to put the visitors up 24-22.

The first half closed with the Wolverines going on a 7-0 as their defense continued to put the Buckeyes into terrible situations. In addition to multiple shot-clock violations, OSU turned the ball over 11 times in the first 20 minutes, while UM coughed it up only twice.

Jackson and Kaleb Wesson’s energy and tenacity kept the Buckeyes in the game, trailing just 32-26 at half. Both Buckeyes had nine points at the intermission, and Jackson added five boards to Kaleb’s four. Ohio State held a solid 17-11 advantage on the glass, which helped compensate a bit for the turnover disparity.

Poole was the top Wolverine scorer in the first half with eight, Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis chipped in seven apiece. While Michigan is in the discussion for the best defense in the country, the Buckeyes were pretty solid in their own right, mixing in a 2-3 zone on occasion. In the first half, UM shot just 11-28 (39.3%) to OSU’s 10-22 (45.5%).

Despite the period change, things began in the second half pretty much as the ended in the first; the Buckeyes turned the ball over the first two possessions after the break.

From there, the Wolverines took advantage of their talent advantages and raced out to a double-digit lead on multiple occasions. With UM leading 44-33, and Kaleb Wesson on the bench, Duane Washington Jr. hit his first three pointer in three games—cutting OSU’s deficit to eight.

The Buckeyes were plagued, especially in the second half, by missed open looks. Whether it was Kaleb Wesson missing multiple dunk attempts (included a block from behind) or Washington and Jackson missing back-to-back three-pointers on the same offensive possession.

After Kaleb Wesson picked up his third personal foul, he got into an argument with Poole, which resulted in technical fouls being assessed to Wesson and Keyshawn Woods, as well as Michigan’s Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske. Somehow, Poole did not pick up a T, despite being the instigator who grabbed Wesson by the arm, got in his face, and then whipped the crowd up after the scrum was broken up.

Following Teske’s two free throws from Kaleb Wesson’s common fouls, Michigan was up 52-38, and it got worse from there. The Wolverines ran out to an 18-point lead thanks to a 9-0 run, before Andre Wesson made good on the hoop and the harm, only to have Isaiah Livers get it back with a corner-three on the other end.

With just under three minutes remaining in the game, Zavier Simpson corralled a rebound giving him the first triple-double of his career. The diminutive guard wracked up 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in the game.

After a fairly even first half, the Buckeyes were doomed by the same things after intermission that have been all season; turnovers and an inability to make shots. In the second half, OSU turned the ball over eight times and shot 2-of-12 (16.7%) from behind the arc.

The Buckeyes will be back at home in the Value City Arena on Saturday, Feb. 2 at noon ET, when they will take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.