A scarlet t-shirt with the phrase “Team 121” wrapped around a picture of a basketball was draped over each of the 18,809 seats in the Schottenstein Center on Sunday afternoon — a way for the university to hype up and promote today’s matchup with the rival No. 19 Michigan Wolverines. With a win, the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes could put some separation between themselves and the Wolverines, whom they were tied with in the conference standings before Sunday’s game.
A win would also pull them to within one game of fifth place in the conference, which is currently held by the Penn State Nittany Lions and Iowa Hawkeyes — who both possess an identical 11-7 record. The coveted double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament is not completely out of the question for the Buckeyes either, with fourth-place Wisconsin only a game and a half ahead. However, those hopes for a double-bye would all but vanish if the Buckeyes lost to U of M at home Sunday.
The Michigan Wolverines (18-10, 9-8 before today) saw their five-game winning streak end Thursday night in Ann Arbor, falling to Wisconsin 81-74. They got a career-high 32 points from Zavier Simpson aka Jeff Jackson, but Wisconsin made it rain on the Wolverines, knocking down 11 3’s and shooting a spicy hot 53.7 percent from the field. D’Mitrik Trice scored 28, his highest scoring output in conference play. Former Buckeye Micah Potter chipped in 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Badgers as well.
Both the Buckeyes and Wolverines seem to be pretty safely in the NCAA Tournament, with each team projected to be somewhere between a No. 6 - No. 9 seed, barring a late push/collapse on either end. What they were also jostling for on Sunday was seeding for the upcoming Big Ten Tournament, which begins on Wednesday, March 13. Ohio State has owned this rivalry matchup at home, going 56-27 in Columbus against UM. Would they be able to put another tally in the win column in the latest hardwood edition of The Game?
Ohio State defeated Michigan 77-63 on Sunday afternoon on the strength of an incredible late-game offensive showcase. With the game tied at 52-52, the Buckeyes would knock down seven of their final nine shots to easily dispatch the Wolverines in Columbus. Duane Washington Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, hitting 5-of-7 from 3-point range. CJ Walker was phenomenal down the stretch, finishing with 15 points to go along with seven assists and six boards. The Wesson brothers each added 14 apiece.
The Buckeye defense was very good, helping to hold Michigan to a paltry 7-of-26 from downtown. Wolverines leading scorer Isaiah Livers had one of his worst games of the season, shooting just 2-of-11 from the field. Ohio State remains undefeated on the season when hitting more than 10 shots from deep, finishing the game 11-21 from beyond the arc as a team.
What were the key plays from Ohio State’s impressive win? Here are the moments that mattered.
Wesson and Washington
Both teams came out of the gate a little bit slow at the offensive end, but that could also be attributed to some strong defense on each side. Michigan was able to get out to an early lead, but after a nifty fast break layup by Luther Muhammad got the crowd involved, Duane Washington Jr. and Andre Wesson knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give Ohio State its first lead of the afternoon, 11-9, at the first media timeout.
Building a house of bricks
The two squads seemed keen on getting almost all of their points from beyond the arc early on, but with very little success. Ohio State opened up the afternoon 2-of-6 from downtown, while Michigan was an even worse 2-of-8. A little over 12 minutes into the action, both teams were shooting exactly 44 percent from the floor as the lead bounced back and forth. Neither side had led by more than four points.
Ohio State was able to go on a scoring run on the strength of some hot shooting from Washington. After a midrange jumper from Andre Wesson and a Muhammad layup, Washington drilled back-to-back deep threes to give the Buckeyes their largest lead of the afternoon. After Michigan’s Jon Teske knocked down a pair of free throws, Wesson quickly answered at the other end with a 3-pointer of his own. OSU led 28-20 with over five minute remaining until the break.
Not finishing strong
The Buckeyes put on a really poor offensive showing to close out the first half. Scoring no points over the final 3:19 of the period, Ohio State missed its final four shots from the field and made just one of its last seven field goal attempts. As a result, the Wolverines were able to close the gap, heading into the break with the home team up just 32-29. Washington led all scorers at the half with 12 points.
Continuing the drought
The halftime rest did not stop the bleeding for Ohio State, as Michigan was able to open up the period with a 9-0 run to regain the lead. The Wolverines started the second half making four of their first five shot attempts, including a 3-pointer by Eli Brooks and a pair of incredibly easy layups by Xavier Simpson. The OSU defense that had been very good in the first period came out in the second a bit slow.
Making it Duane
After Ohio State was able to battle back to get on top, Duane Washington was doing his best to make sure his team stayed there. With the Buckeyes up just two, Washington was fought his way around a screen and buried a triple from the left wing. A few possessions later, he did the exact same thing from the right as OSU took a 52-46 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining. The sophomore guard was now 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
Five for five
Michigan had tied the game at 52 apiece, but the Buckeyes were able to find a rhythm at the offensive end. Walker, as he had done all afternoon, knocked down two-straight shots from the top of the key before brothers Andre and Kaleb Wesson drilled back-to-back 3-pointers. A 15-footer by Muhammad was Ohio State’s fifth straight make from the field as the home team took an eight-point lead with around four minutes to go.
Just like football!
Ohio State’s offensive onslaught to end the game was more than enough to put away Michigan, as the winning team on the hardwood reflected the winning team on the gridiron. A bank three by Kaleb Wesson with 1:36 remaining would suck any remaining life out of the visiting Wolverines, and the Scarlet and Gray came away with a huge win in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
The Buckeyes’ next action on the hardwood will come Thursday night at home against the Illinois Fighting Illini (20-9, 12-6). Illinois is 6-5 this season on the road, and are only one game behind the Maryland Terrapins for first-place in the Big Ten with two games to go. Their meeting with the Buckeyes in Columbus represents their final road challenge of the year. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET and that game will be broadcast on ESPN.