Michigan earned its second win over a top-10 team on Sunday afternoon, staying one step ahead of No. 8 Ohio State for much of the Wolverines’ 74-62 win. A spirited defensive effort held Keita Bates-Diop, the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year, to 17 points on 5-of-17 shooting, while also forcing the Buckeyes into 14 turnovers. On the other end of the court, Michigan was sparked by Jordan Poole, who led the team in scoring in the first half with 12 points. Here are five key plays from the win:
1. Poole’s hot start
It didn’t take long for Michigan’s freshman phenom to make a difference. Poole checked into the game for the first time with 11:26 left in the first half. Close to a minute later, he squared up and drilled a 3 that erased Ohio State’s four-point lead, the largest the Buckeyes held all game.
Then, with the Wolverines down 16-15 following several minutes of stagnant play, Poole put together a nifty transition finish to give his team the lead — a lead that Michigan would hold onto for the rest of the game.
His third basket was perhaps the most impressive. With Kam Williams, a senior, defending him, Poole crossed over, befuddling Williams, and hit a 3 while drawing contact. He would finish the and-one as the Wolverines extended their early lead to six.
2. More Poole action
Poole’s first-half offensive fireworks weren’t over yet. With under two minutes, he made two plays — one tinged by luck — as Michigan made an attempt to pull away.
At the 1:59 mark, Poole pulled up for a 3, though he didn’t quite drain it. The ball bounced a couple times before falling through, giving him his third three-pointer of the half on just four attempts.
Then, with just over a minute left, Poole displayed good vision on the pick and roll, drawing in two defenders before deftly passing the ball to a wide-open Jon Teske, who promptly sank a mid-range jumper.
“We need magic in a bottle a bit to just get ourselves going in the first half, get a lead,” said John Beilein, “and Jordan Poole gave us some of that.”
3. Abdur-Rahkman makes impact
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman didn’t have his best shooting day, converting 5-of-13 attempts from the field. But he played steadily, made 5-of-6 free throws, and contributed 3 assists. Of course, he also led Michigan with 17 points.
Early in the second half, Abdur-Rahkman made a pair of plays that helped Michigan hold off Ohio State. With 15:10 left, he drove and had a nice finish to put his team back up by four. Then after a poor offensive possession from Ohio State, Abdur-Rahkman found Teske while being trapped for a layup.
Beilein was certainly pleased with his senior guard’s performance.
“(Abdur-Rahkman’s) leading the country in not turning it over,” Beilein said. “He’s never gonna be mistaken for this incredible point guard that sees the whole floor, but he makes the next right play.
“… In his first two years, I could count on one hand the plays that I had for him … About a month ago, I looked (up and said), ‘You know, we don’t have enough stuff for Muhammad, right?’ Listen, he’s got ability to get places that other people can’t get to on this team. And we started just doing more with him and giving him much more latitude.”
4. One final statement from Poole
The second half was mostly quiet for Poole, who hit just one shot after a splendid first-half effort. But that one shot was an important one. After a four-minute stretch yielded just one made basket amid two turnovers and missed shots each, Poole helped Michigan respond in a big way. With the score 57-52, Abdur-Rahkman drove, kicked the ball out, and watched as Poole drained his fourth 3 of the game.
The freshman finished with 15 points on the day on 5-of-8 shooting (4-of-5 from 3) with one assist and no turnovers. Not a bad game from a freshman who had shot just 2-of-15 from 3-point range over his past four games.
“We know (Poole’s) gonna shoot it, right? You know it and I know it,” Beilein said. “We’re trying to find and understand what the best way for him to score, not just shoot. And he’s learning that every day.
“But I love that he’s got that swag to go in there. We talked last week and I suggested that he work a little bit harder on his own time or in extra time in practice, of just getting good, solid reps up. And just trying to just get enough reps in so he felt more comfortable in games.”
5. Late-game offense seals win
After yet another somewhat stagnant period of play — Michigan and Ohio State each went nearly three minutes without scoring — it was Abdur-Rahkman who put the dagger in the Buckeyes. With 3:14 left, Charles Matthews drove into the teeth of the defense before kicking it to a wide-open Abdur-Rahkman, who calmly stepped into his shot and drained the 3 to give Michigan a 12-point lead.
Then, after Bates-Diop drove and finished on the ensuing possession, Zavier Simpson secured a long defensive rebound before finding Moritz Wagner in transition for an and-one layup that ended with Wagner flexing to the crowd. At that point, the game was all but over.