Buckeyes Upset Michigan, Advance to Big Ten Championship

The 10th ranked Buckeyes built a big lead late and once again held on, advancing to the Big Ten title game, defeating 4th ranked Michigan 68-67 in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes utilized solid halfcourt defense, forcing Michigan into just 35% shooting and 10 offensive rebounds to upset the conference’s regular season champion to move on to Sunday in the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 2013 when they won it. Duane Washington Jr led Ohio State with 24 points and 6 rebounds. E.J. Liddell added 18 and 5 boards for the victorious Buckeyes, who was playing without Kyle Young, out in concussion protocol once again. Michigan, playing without Isaiah Livers, out indefinitely with a foot injury, was led by Hunter Dickinson’s game high 21.

The Buckeyes got on the board first with a Duane Washington, Jr. floater on the right side of the paint. Less than a minute later, Michigan’s center and reigning Big Ten freshman of the year, Hunter Dickinson left the game with an apparent elbow injury, but Michigan scored in the paint anyway to tie the score. Justice Sueing drilled a three from the right corner to put Ohio State up three but back came the Wolverines, hitting a three of their own to tie it. Justin Ahrens hit a three from the left wing to put Ohio State back up three and after a pair of Michigan free throws dropped, Ohio State led by a point at the first media timeout of the game. Sueing drilled another three, this time off the bounce from the left point to put Ohio State ahead 4. Dickinson returned to the Wolverine lineup and immediately scored from the left block and another Wolverine bucket tied the score at 11. Washington uncharacteristically missed a pair of free throws to break the tie, so at the under 12 media timeout, the Bucks and the Wolves were tied. The Buckeyes went back up three when Walker found Liddell trailing in transition for a triple from the top, but a 7-0 Wolverine run gave Michigan a 4-point lead. The run ended when Washington found the bottom from the left corner for three and at the under 8 minute media timeout, Michigan held on to a 18-17 lead.  C.J. Walker put Ohio State back on top, scoring in transition at the rim through traffic and went up three when Zed Key hit the offensive glass and scored on a put back. A pair of Michigan free throws broke nearly a 4-minute scoreless drought for the Wolverines and following a Buckeye turnover, Michigan scored in the half court to regain a one-point lead at the final media timeout of the half as neither team was shooting the ball very well. Three UM free throws put the Wolverines up four and a 7-0 run, before the Buckeyes broke a 4 minute scoring drought, scoring on a pick and roll with Washington and Liddell, with E.J. scoring at the rim. Another pair of UM free throws put the Wolverines up four, but Seth Towns drilled a three from the right corner to finish the scoring for the half and the teams hit the locker room with Michigan on top 27-26. It was about the defense in the first half as neither team shot the ball very well. The Buckeyes hit just 30% of their shot attempts, but 6 of 13 from long kept them in it. Michigan was worse, hitting just 29.6% of their shots, including 2 of 9 from downtown. Michigan held the lead due to free throw shooting, with the Wolverines hitting 9 of 10, while Ohio State, the best free throw shooting team in the conference was 0 of 4. Ohio State was led in the first half by Justice Sueing’s 6, while E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. each had 5.

Duane Washington’s triple from the left corner in front of the Ohio State bench dropped putting Ohio State up two early in the second half, but Michigan scored at the rim to tie it. A pair of Liddell free throws, preceded two Michigan free throws, keeping the game tied. Washington put the ball on the deck with a hesitation move on the left side of the lane and scored putting Ohio State back ahead two. On the next possession, Liddell blocked a shot at the rim, but injured his hand and had to leave the game. A pair of Buckeye turnovers on back to back possessions was offset by two defensive stops and at the under 16 media timeout, Ohio State led Michigan 33-31. Liddell returned following the timeout and he wasted no time contributing, drilling a three from the right point, putting the Buckeyes up five. A 5-0 Michigan run retied the game, but another Liddell triple from the lead point put Ohio State up three. A Michigan bucket cut the lead to 1, but a wide open Duane Washington triple from the right point dropped giving the Buckeyes a four point lead. Three free throws by the Wolverines cut the lead to one and after a Buckeye miss, Michigan scored at the rim to go back up one, forcing Chris Holtmann to call timeout with 11:34 remaining and Michigan leading 43-42. Out of the timeout, Washington used a ball screen from Key and hit a triple from straight on top giving the Buckeyes the lead. After a Michigan miss, Liddell scored mid paint while being fouled and sending the teams to the benches for the under 12 media timeout with E.J. due to go to the line, with Ohio State now leading 47-43. Liddell buried the free throw out of the timeout to put Ohio State up 5 with just over 10 minutes to play. A Key jump hook put Ohio State up 7 and on the next possession, Walker knifed through the lane and scored as he was fouled. Walker knocked down the free throw to put the Buckeyes up 10 and on an 11-0 run. A pair of Wolverine free throws trimmed the lead to 8, but Washington drilled a three from the top to put the Buckeyes up 11 at the under 8 minute timeout. And with 7:18 left on the game clock, Ohio State was enjoying a 56-45 lead. A quick 5-0 Michigan run cut the lead to 6, but Washington completed an old fashioned three point play putting Ohio State back up 9. After a Michigan turnover, Sueing grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, drawing the fifth and final foul on All Big Ten Second Team, Franz Wagner and Michigan took a timeout with Ohio State up 61-50 and Sueing due to head to the stripe. Sueing missed the free throw but a stop on the other end a pair of Liddell freebies put the Buckeyes up 13 with just over 4 minutes to play. A Michigan three cut the lead to 10, but Walker got to the rim off the bounce for a lay in off the glass to put Ohio State back up 12. Michigan big man, Dickinson answered with a dunk while he was fouled to cut the lead to 10 and at the final media timeout of the game, Ohio State led 65-55 with Dickinson due to go to the line after the break. He made the freebie to cut the lead to 9, but Washington cut through the lane and scored high off the glass to put the Buckeyes up 11. Michigan cut it to 9 again and the Buckeyes broke the backcourt pressure and Liddell had a wide-open dunk that he missed leading to Michigan to cut the lead to 7. Sueing split a pair of free throws and after a Wolverine score cut the lead to 6, Michigan called timeout with 1:38 to go. Liddell had his pocket picked in the backcourt by Dickinson who scored cutting the lead to four and on Ohio State’s possession, Liddell lost it out of bounds forcing Chris Holtmann to call timeout with 1:01 left and the Buckeyes clinging to a four point lead. A Michigan triple cut the lead to one and Holtmann once again called timeout with Michigan on an 11-1 run and 46.8 seconds to go. A Walker turnover with 28.9 to go gave the ball back to Michigan. Michigan held for the last shot and a heavily defended jumper from on top clanged off the iron and the Buckeyes escaped.

The Buckeyes certainly don’t make things easy, but the bottom line is they are getting the wins. The four game losing streak is in the rearview and three straight wins and a chance to win a Big Ten Championship is the only thing on their minds now. They showed a lot of heart in this game, especially hitting the glass, outrebounding the bigger Wolverines 37-36, including 10 of the offensive variety. The best players step up in big game and Liddell and Washington did that in this game. Although Liddell had some turnover issues late and a missed dunk, but he had a big game on both ends and helped lead Ohio State to a big win.

The Buckeyes will hit the hardwood again tomorrow, playing for a Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium (Sound familiar Buckeye fans?). They will face off against the winner of Iowa and Illinois and airing on CBS, tipping at 3:30 PM.

-Jason Harris                      

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