The Michigan basketball team showed flashes of greatness, endured a seven-minute scoring drought and made crucial buckets down the stretch to topple Ohio State, 64-57, on Sunday afternoon. In Five Key Plays, we look at the biggest moments from the upset.
1) Irvin fills the stat sheet
The positive signs came early for the Wolverines, as Zak Irvin made his first shot and proceeded to accumulate five points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal before the first media timeout — earning the first of many standing ovations from the Crisler Center crowd.
The sophomore forward’s contributions began with a defensive rebound following solid on-ball defending on Jae’Sean Tate. Irvin led Michigan back down the court, and Ricky Doyle immediately set a screen at the top of the key. Tate couldn’t fight through it and Amir Williams didn’t provide any help, leaving Irvin open for the straightaway three.
On the next possession, following a missed jumper from D’Angelo Russell, Irvin used a ball screen to curl into the lane, where Williams couldn’t shuffle fast enough to close an easy lane to the basket.
Those plays set up the pick-and-roll action. As Irvin used another ball screen from Doyle, Williams committed to defending the sophomore forward, leaving Doyle open — and Irvin’s over-the-head pass fed him perfectly.
Then came an all-out dive for a steal, and, after the first media timeout, a three-pointer created by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s baseline drive. (And a nice job from Aubrey Dawkins on this play, pointing at Irvin to ensure Abdur-Rahkman made the right pass.)
Irvin’s hot start set the tone early on and he demonstrated parts of his game — passing, rebounding — that have been fleeting this season.
2) Chatman showcases improvements
For the first time in a long time, Michigan fans got a glimpse of why Kameron Chatman was so highly touted as a recruit.
The freshman forward had six points on three-for-three shooting in the first half to help keep the Wolverines comfortably ahead.
Chatman went coast-to-coast for his first bucket, grabbing a defensive rebound and then driving on Kam Williams — plus a nifty spin to avoid a double-team — for the contested layup. A minute later, following an acrobatic save from Irvin, Chatman didn’t hesitate to attack the rim again, finishing through traffic.
The forward also could’ve had an assist on a well-timed pass to Dawkins at the hoop, but the ball ended back in Chatman’s hands. Upon receiving the kickout feed, Chatman split a pair of defenders with a strong jump step and finished the short jumper to put Michigan up 17.
Chatman regressed toward the mean in the second half — missing a three-pointer, committing a turnover and being pulled after just two minutes — but his first-half contributions are a reminder of his potential.
“Where some people may be dialing back in their practice right now, we’re actually practicing more with those guys because they need this fundamental work,” Beilein said. “Kam, it certainly showed off today. He was very efficient with his game, except maybe the last turnover.”
3) Russell leads 14-0 Ohio State run
Most expected D’Angelo Russell to be the best player on the court Monday, and, for a stretch he was. The future lottery pick keyed a 14-0 Buckeyes run which shaved their deficit to just three late in the second half.
After Michigan went up 49-32, Shannon Scott began the comeback with an elbow jumper as Spike Albrecht — who had his hands on his hips moments before — was a step behind on defense.
Then, Russell got to work, using ball screens from Trey McDonald to attack the Wolverines’ defense. He caught Abdur-Rahkman leaning the wrong way on the first one and drove by him from the top of the key for a layup, completing the three-point play after an Andrew Dakich foul. The Ohio State guard then hit a deep three with the space created by McDonald, and later, a screen allowed him to turn the corner and blow by Mark Donnal for a layup.
A behind-the-back move by Marc Loving sent the forward to the free-throw line, cutting the lead to five, and then Russell fed Keita Bates-Diop in transition for a jumper despite having Irvin’s hand in his face.
The Wolverines led by just three and hadn’t scored in seven minutes, and another collapse seemed imminent.
4) Irvin stops run with three-pointer
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman may have scored just two points against the Buckeyes, but he was instrumental in one of the biggest plays of the game.
As Russell appeared to let up momentarily to ask for an offensive foul, the freshman guard drove into the lane, where Bates-Diop collapsed in from the wing to provide support help. Instead of attempting a wild layup, Abdur-Rahkman found Irvin open in the vacated right corner, and the forward snagged the low pass and nailed the clutch three-pointer.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘I’m going to make a big shot right here,’ ” Irvin said. “Muhammad was able to find me, and I knew right when it left my hand it was going in.”
The bucket pushed Michigan’s lead back to six, and the Buckeyes didn’t get within three points again.
5) Veterans seal victory
This sequence was perhaps one of the last things you would’ve expected at the beginning of the year: With a close game winding down against a favored rival, former backups Aubrey Dawkins and Max Bielfeldt combined to force a turnover, Zak Irvin attacked the basket with confidence for a key layup, and Spike Albrecht iced the game with a Trey Burke-esque steal of a future lottery pick.
Yet in 20 seconds Monday afternoon, that’s exactly how it happened.
Bielfeldt dove to the floor to make sure Michigan regained possession, then got the ball to Irvin, who passed to Albrecht. The guard delivered a floating pass up the floor, and, when Russell overcommitted by going for the steal, Irvin had a clear path to the basket for a layup. Then Albrecht picked Russell’s pocket at midcourt and made both free throws to put the Wolverines comfortably ahead.
“He was going to go coast-to-coast, and I was just thinking, ‘Man, he’s a lot more athletic than me, and he’s going to beat me down the court’ ” Albrecht said. “I was like, man, I’m tired, so I’m going for the steal. Fortunately, I was able to get it.”
As Beilein said about Ohio State playing all out ball denial defense against Albrecht after the game, and as Michigan fans surely thought while watching Chatman star, Andrew Dakich hit a trey, and a cast of former unknowns star in a big upset: “Who would’ve thought that would ever happen?”