Michigan knocked off Ohio State on Sunday to wrap up its home schedule heading into the final week of the regular season.
There was energy in the building from the opening tip, but the early moments of Sunday’s nationally televised showdown were a grind. Both teams were playing physically and the officials were letting them have at it. Points were at a premium and it took over 10 minutes for either team to crack 20 points.
Michigan’s offense needed something to provide a spark and bring the game alive and Jordan Poole provided it. Poole knocked in three first half 3-pointers en route to 12 points in the opening frame.
Poole helped Michigan take the lead, but Ohio State never went away. The Wolverines consistently extended the lead to three possessions only to let the Buckeyes crawl back. Jae’Sean Tate cut the deficit to just 3 points with under 8 minutes to play before the Wolverines answered once and for all, putting the game away with a 10-1 run.
Michigan’s offense struggled to figure out Ohio State’s defense early on. The Wolverines only managed to score 38 points in the first 42 possessions of the game, but everything clicked in the final 15 minutes. The Wolverines scored 36 points in the final 24 possessions of play, with only 7 empty possessions in the final 15 minutes, to finish at 1.12 points per trip.
Michigan was always going to have a shot profile advantage in this game — attempting more threes and allowing fewer than Ohio State — and that played out according to script. The Wolverines shot 56% inside the arc and 35% from outside and also got to the free throw line 24 times, making 17 attempts — a step in the right direction.
Michigan played its worst defensive rebounding game since November, but its pre-shot defensive performance was one of the best of the season. Ohio State made just 19-of-47 2-point attempts (40%) in the loss. The Buckeyes have made it this far by excelling at making tough twos, but Michigan forced them into those shots and forced them to miss. This was the worst 2-point shooting performance by the Buckeyes since they were in Portland over Thanksgiving for the PK80.
Buckeye head coach Chris Holtmann attributed his team’s shooting struggles to the fact that the Wolverines extended pressure and dared his guards to beat them. The strategy worked and the Buckeyes struggled to handle the ball pressure. Michigan forced 14 turnovers in a 66 possession game and turned those into 22 points — outscoring the Buckeyes 12-0 in fast break points.
The game might have been a blow out if it wasn’t for Ohio State’s offensive rebounding. The Buckeyes rebounded 37% of their missed shots and turned 15 offensive boards into 13 second chance points.
Buckeye junior Keita Bates-Diop scored 17 points in the loss, but he needed 17 shot attempts and four turnovers to get to that number. Michigan used a number of different looks to slow Bates-Diop from double-teams to outright denial on the perimeter, but much of that success came down to Isaiah Livers and Duncan Robinson playing physically enough to make things difficult on Bates-Diop.
Michigan closes the season with a pair of road games this week at Penn State and Maryland. The Nittany Lions are playing some of the better basketball in the conference and both games are important chances for Michigan to grab a resume-boosting quadrant one victory.
- Jordan Poole: Michigan’s offense was sputtering early on and Poole provided the lift. He had a couple of costly defensive mistakes and is far from mistake free, but there’s nothing quite like an irrational confidence boost off the bench and that’s exactly what Poole provided. His shooting — tough off the dribble step back threes — pumped life into the Crisler Center and gave Michigan’s offense something to lean on.
- Moritz Wagner: Wagner battled 23 minutes against Kaleb Wesson’s sheer size down low. He got whistled for a bit of foul trouble, but mostly held his own on the block. Wagner never quite got going offensively, but he made key baskets at different points throughout the game. It wasn’t a great defensive rebounding game for Michigan, but Wagner grabbed 7 important defensive boards as well.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman is making a late-season shift into the focal point of Michigan’s offense. He made plays out of the ball screen, hit off the dribble jumpers and took the ball to the basket. Michigan needs someone to be that guy down the stretch and right now Abdur-Rahkman is in the best position to play that role. He looked like he was really trying to grasp it today more than I can remember at any time in his career. His timely ability to “draw” offensive fouls is something I’ve hit on before in game recaps this year and he had drew two today.
- Zavier Simpson: Beilein loves to call his starting point guard a “pit bull” and he played like it today. There are things that Simpson can’t give Michigan when he’s leading the team, but the things that he does provide have changed this team in a lot of ways. Simpson’s hands on defense give Michigan an extra three or four possessions were game and he made just enough offensive plays to stay dangerous including a couple of strong drives to the rim and three from the corner. Simpson also made an adjustment to his free throw stroke, dribbling the ball off to his side, a suggestion that was phoned in by Patrick Beilein.
- Jon Teske: Teske gave Michigan 5 points, 4 rebounds, a block and a steal in 19 minutes off the bench. His length helped bother the Buckeyes around the rim and he was forced into extended time with Wagner battling foul trouble. Teske picked up a dunk and a nice 10-foot jumper out of the ball screen game and played very well against his home-state school.
- Duncan Robinson: Robinson played 24 minutes and held the presumed Big Ten Player of the Year in check while he was on the floor.Robinson didn’t make a shot on his senior night, but that defensive performance speaks to how much he’s been able to develop, notably over the last few weeks, on the defensive end of the floor. Robinson fouled out of the game in Columbus and was in the midst of a stretch where he seemingly couldn’t figure out how to defend without fouling, today he played physically but was only whistled for one foul.
- Charles Matthews: Matthews accounted for 4 of Michigan’s 7 turnovers in the loss and got caught dribbling into no-man’s land a few times. He had a moment in the second half where he scored on back-to-back curls to the rim, but that was followed by three empty possessions by the transfer wing. Despite some forgettable moments, Matthews had 3 assists, 7 rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes.
- Isaiah Livers: Livers seems to be getting back to up to speed after missing time due to his ankle injury. He started but played only 16 minutes while missing two shots from the floor. I thought he did an impressive job playing physically against Bates-Diop during the time he was on the court.
- Jaaron Simmons: Simmons had a pretty ball screen assist and a transition layup in nine minutes off the bench. Overall, I thought he gave the Wolverines a solid shift in both halves.