Michigan was Michigan when things got tight, and OSU simply had too many empty possessions in the process. Bucks fall at Crisler Arena, 65-49.
Columbus – Those who have been watching Ohio State play basketball this winter had to know the sky very well could fall in quickly even when the team was making fifth-ranked Michigan huff and puff for everything that it got.
With 3:28 left in the first half, guard and captain C.J. Jackson swished a free throw to complete a three-point play that gave the Buckeyes a 24-22 lead.
At that point, about the loudest Wolverine fans got was when the public address announcer said the university was canceling classes on Wednesday and Thursday because of the walk-in freezer-like conditions brought about by a polar vortex.
Ah, but Ohio State aficionados had to be keeping a running tally of all the team’s empty possessions.
Here we go again, they had to be thinking.
Michigan gathered itself behind junior point guard Zavier Simpson, of Lima, throwing down a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in smacking Ohio State 65-49 on Tuesday night at Crisler Arena.
The Buckeyes (13-7, 3-6) lost for the sixth time in seven games because of 19 turnovers and a funk at the end of the first half that enabled the Wolverines to begin to get some separation.
“I didn’t question our fight for 40 minutes,’’ Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought we had a good, competitive way about us for the most part, I really did. We just didn’t execute the way we need to and we didn’t hit enough shots.’’
He saluted Michigan for being, well, Michigan when things were tight.
“I thought they made some timely shots – some big threes – that took it from a two- or three-possession game to a four- or five-possession game,’’ Holtmann said. “We just weren’t able to make enough plays in the second half.’’
The Wolverines (20-1, 9-1) were a 10-point favorite to win their 23rd game in 24 Big Ten starts since last season, and they showed why they are this good by playing through some listless segments in the first half.
Ohio State made things so much easier for them.
The game wasn’t seven minutes old when the Buckeyes had a flurry of negative plays. There was a shot clock violation, players not hustling down court and Jordan Poole going in for an unmolested lay-up, a C.J. Jackson throwaway and Muhammad losing the ball out of bounds on a drive to the basket.
Even after Musa Jallow muffed a dunk off a lob, Andre Wesson boosted the Buckeyes lead to 17-12 with a three-pointer with 11:22 left in the half.
But there were more unforced errors by the bundle. Keyshawn Woods had the ball in his hands on another shot clock violation, center Kaleb Wesson had a frustration foul after missing two short shots, Justin Ahrens threw the ball away and Kaleb Wesson missed a dunk.
Michigan led 32-26 at halftime on a tip-in by Matthews with 32 seconds left.
Ohio State put a bow on its helter-skelter first 20 minutes when Jackson was left with an off-balance 40-foot shot just before the buzzer because a bad pass blew up the play.
The second half was painful to watch when the Buckeyes seemingly were inventing shots inside the three-point arc against the Big Ten’s No. 1 scoring defense. When that didn’t work they began firing up three-pointers.
Simpson gave Michigan a 50-38 lead with 8:18 left with a three-pointer. At first, he looked left, looked right and didn’t know what to do because his teammates stopped moving without the ball. He got bailed out when no one guarded him, and he fired away.
There was a bit of a dust-up on the next trip up the floor when Simpson, talking to an official, kept pointing a finger at Kaleb Wesson. Wesson had just been called for a loose ball foul.
A fired-up Wesson approached Simpson near mid-court. The heat got turned up when Poole and Jon Teske laid hands on Wesson trying to talk him down.
For Wesson, it was a common foul and technical foul for fouls No. 3 and 4 in the game. He was taken out and never saw the floor again. Woods, Simpson and Teske also got technicals.
Holtmann was on the spot in seconds trying to get order, and continued to work settling his players down during a timeout that followed.
“I just think in this environment obviously that was an accumulation of some frustration,’’ Holtmann said. “I had a conversation with all of our guys, not just Kaleb, that, listen, there is a way we have to play. I understand you are frustrated – we’re all frustrated – but let’s make sure we’re representing who we are in the best possible way.’’
It has been a terrible stretch for the team, but remember that five of the six losses have come against Michigan State, Iowa, Maryland, Purdue and now Michigan. Only Iowa is unranked and at this point all of them are locks to receive bids to the NCAA tournament.
As grueling a month as January was for Ohio State, the first two weeks of February appear to be schedule relief, beginning with Rutgers on Saturday at The Schott. Then come Penn State, free-falling Indiana and Illinois.