No Call leads to No Win in Classic Battle in Ann Arbor
By Brandon Castel
ANN ARBOR — They call soccer the ‘Beautiful Game’ but Tuesday night’s battle between No. 3 Michigan and No. 10 Ohio State was as bewitching as any basketball game could ever hope for.
The two teams, and bitter rivals, wrestled back and forth for Big Ten supremacy over the first 40 minutes. When that wasn’t enough, they wrestled some more. In the end, Trey Burke made the big plays Michigan needed and Aaron Craft couldn’t get the basket – or the foul – he needed to keep the Buckeyes alive.
“I've got to give Michigan credit. The plays they made were tremendous plays,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said after watching his team fall, 76-74, in an overtime nail-biter at a packed Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor.
“It takes an effort like that (to win on the road), but we needed something to kind of make our own luck at some point down the stretch.”
Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 17 points while sophomore LaQuinton Ross scored 16 off the bench on 7 of 10 shooting. It was his first double-digit scoring performance in conference play, but this game was all about Aaron Craft and Trey Burke.
With a little Tim Hardaway Jr. mixed in. Hardaway drained six threes, including four in a row in the second half, to lead all scorers with 23 points. Mitch McGary added 14 points and six rebounds off the bench, but the ball, as expected, was in the hands of Michigan’s star point guard when the game was on the line.
“Every game means a lot to him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said of the Columbus native.
“He's a warrior. He goes after it.”
For the second time this season, Burke had a chance to beat the Buckeyes with a step-back three at the end of regulation. Again it came up short, this time at the buzzer as Ohio State (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) and Michigan (21-2, 8-2) needed extra time to decide one of those games that helps to cement the Big Ten’s place as the best conference in college basketball.
“I felt like I was back at Ohio State shooting the same shot,” said Burke, who missed a similar stepback three in the final seconds of Michigan’s loss in Columbus earlier this season.
“They switched and I wanted to get in the paint. I knew we were in the bonus, but he was kind of sagging off me and guys were in the gaps so I felt like I could hit the shot. Missed it again.”
This time Burke had another chance. He put the missed shot out of his mind and rattled in a big three in overtime to give Michigan a 75-72 lead. Craft scored a on a driving layup to make a one-point game in the final minute.
Ohio State’s pesky point guard would strip Burke at the defensive end before racing up the floor with a chance to take the lead. Burke stripped the ball out of bounds on Craft’s first attempt. The next time, he would block him cleanly.
“I was going to go get it back. I ran like my life depended on it. I was going to get the ball back some way,” Burke said after scoring 16 points and dishing out eight assists against Ohio State.
“He got to the free throw line and I saw that he was going to pull up. I jumped, got out of the way and swiped it out of his shooting form.”
Craft would get another chance, though. After Glen Robinson III hit the first but missed the second of his two free throws, Craft grabbed the ball from Deshaun Thomas and raced up the floor. There was still time. Nearly seven seconds by the time he got the ball and darted up the floor.
He cut to the basket, got around Burke and went up for the game-winning layup, but Hardaway was there to meet him with outstretched arms.
“I thought he got fouled,” said Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer who did not have a shot in overtime.
“The way they were calling that game, guys were playing physical and they were calling it tight. I thought they would call that one because he definitely got hit, but you’re not gonna get all the calls.”
Craft lay flat on the court in disbelief, his hands raised over his head.
“I got to the rim, I got a layup,” Craft said in the hallway outside Ohio State’s locker room.
“In the moment, I'm happy with what I did. There was a lot of contact all game. We didn't get the call, so you've got to move on.”
If nothing else, both teams played like they belonged in the top 10, while Craft and Burke proved they deserve to be mentioned among the elite point guards in college basketball, at least when they are going against eachother.
“I’m glad I don’t have to see him again this year,” said Burke, who played alongside Jared Sullinger at Northland High School in Columbus.
“I like going against Craft because he makes me work. He makes me better, but I’m happy I don’t have to see him for a while.”
Craft finished the game with 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals. He played 44 of the 45 minutes. Burke played 43.
The Buckeyes were actually leading 41-40 at the half. They extended that lead to eight on a three-pointer by Lenzelle Smith Jr. with 13 minutes to play in the second half, but Robinson scored to make it six and then Hardaway connected on four straight threes to give Michigan a one-point lead.
The game would go back and forth the rest of the way, with Ross hitting a big three only to have Hardaway knock down another one at the opposite end. Burke’s three gave Michigan a three-point edge with 2:42 to play, but Ross scored on a putback and Smith nailed a long two in the corner to tie the game at 72 with 28 seconds to play.
Burke missed the game-winner at the buzzer, but his three in overtime was the difference.
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