It wasn’t easy, and sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but when the final horn sounded Ohio State (21-8) had 68 points on the scoreboard and Michigan (20-4) had 67. By anybody’s math that made the Buckeyes the winners and headed to the B1G championship game and made the Wolverines losers and headed back to Ann Arbor.
The first half of the game was played in stark contrast to the first meeting between these team. That game was a high-level offensive game with both teams pouring in shots and making plays. The first half of this game was about as different as it could be. In the first half both teams shot dismal 30% from the field. The Buckeyes also managed to go 0-4 from the free throw line. The lack of offense resulted in a 27-26 half time lead for Michigan. In fairness, both teams were playing without key players. Michigan forward Isaiah Livers and OSU forward Kyle Young both sat out the game due to injuries. That may explain some of the inept offense, but both teams were guilty of missing easy shots that normally would have been baskets. The ball just wasn’t going in.
Things changed in the second half. Michigan got its inside game going while the Buckeyes got their perimeter game back in gear. OSU had a slight edge over the first ten minutes and led by as many as four, but Michigan always answered to stay close. A basket by Michigan’s Austin Davis with 11:40 remaining gave the Wolverines the lead at 43-42, but it was a lead that was short-lived. The Buckeyes went on an 11-0 run to make the score 53-43 with 9:06 remaining on the clock.
OSU was able to stretch the lead to 13 with 4:19 remaining and looked for all the world looked to have the game under control.
Looks can be decieving.
Michigan battled back to trail by just nine when with 2:50 on the clock OSU’s E.J. Liddell got loose on a fast break and hammered home a dunk…at least he thought he did. The ball rattled around the rim and jumped out harmlessly denying Liddell and the Buckeyes of two points. Michigan then converted two free throws on the other end. The four point swing made the score 67-60 with 2:44 left to play and suddently it was a game.
A bad turnover by Liddell led to a Michigan score to cut the lead to 68-64 with 1:29 to go. Another OSU turnover led to a three to make the score 68-67 with 48 seconds remaining.
The Buckeyes needed a play. Instead they got yet another turnover, this one when C.J. Young was called for stepping on the end line, and Michigan had the ball back with 28 seconds on the clock. The Wolverines played for one shot, but the Buckeye defense took away anything easy. The last shot of the game was a three point attempt at the top of the key by Michigan’s Mike Smith, but Liddell was there to bother the shot and it it went off the rim giving OSU the win.
With the win OSU has now defeated every team on their schedule this season. They came into the Big Ten tournament without wins over Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan, but defeated all those teams to reach the championship game tomorrow at 3:30 on CBS.
Duane Washington led OSU in scoring with 24 points that included five three point goals. E.J. Liddell chipped in 18. After a dismal shooting first half OSU ended up shooting 58% in the second half and 42% from the field for the game.