Liddell Leads Buckeyes by Michigan in Ann Arbor

16th ranked Ohio State took a lead with just under 2 minutes remaining in the first half and never trailed again, downing the host Michigan Wolverines 68-57 to improve to 15-6 and 8-4 in Big Ten play.  Michigan, playing their 4th game in 7 days, fell to 13-10 and 7-6 in conference action. The win combined with several upsets around the conference in recent days puts Ohio State back in the thick of the conference race and they will enjoy 6 of their final 8 games at home as they try to accomplish that goal. The Buckeyes, who shot 50% from the floor and held Michigan to just 41%,  were led by E.J. Liddell’s 28 points and Cedric Russell’s 12. Michigan got 17 from Eli Brooks and 14 from Hunter Dickinson in the loss. 

Michigan jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the opening minutes with the Buckeye score coming from an E.J. Liddell fade mid-paint. The Buckeyes cut into the lead when Gene Brown cut back door from the left wing and received a Kyle Young pass that led to a dunk and at the first media timeout, Michigan was on top 6-4. Michigan got another bucket to fall off transition, but a Jamari Wheeler triple from the top and a Wheeler score off a dribble drive put the Buckeyes ahead. The Buckeye run continued as Zed Key scored from the right block but a Wolverine bucket off penetration stopped the Buckeye 7-0 run and at the under 12 minute media timeout, Ohio State led 11-10. Michigan regained the lead scoring the next four before a long Cedric Russell triple fell from the top, tying the score. The Wolverines went back ahead briefly before Liddell scored while being fouled and completed the old-fashioned three point play, draining the free throw, breaking the tie. The Buckeyes extended the lead when Russell buried a long jumper from the left wing, but a 4-0 Michigan run put the Wolverines back ahead. A Young rebound and put back had Ohio State back on top for a moment before a Michigan triple dropped. The Buckeyes evened it up when Liddell scored with a jump hook in the middle of the lane and after Liddell was fouled attempting a short jumper, the teams hit the benches for the final media timeout of the first half with the game deadlocked at 23. Out of the timeout, Liddell buried both free throws to put the Buckeyes back in front, but Michigan scored at the rim to tie it once again. A high low lob from Liddell to Key gave Ohio State another lead, but Michigan drilled a triple from the right wing to put the Wolverines back ahead. Back came Ohio State as Liddell scored with a one hander off the glass and after a block on the other end by Liddell, Russell got dribble penetration and scored at the rim to put the Buckeyes up three with just over a minute to go in the half. A Wolverine lay-in followed by a Joey Brunk fading left handed hook on the left baseline completed the first half scoring after a flurry of opportunities in the waning seconds by Michigan failed to go and at the half, Ohio State led Michigan 33-30. The Buckeyes hit on 50% of their shot attempts, including 2 of 5 from downtown, while Michigan shot it at a 48% clip, while only knocking down 2 of 7 from deep.  E.J. Liddell led all scorers with 11, while Cedric Russell chipped in 7 for Ohio State. Michigan was led by Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks, who scored 8 each. 

A good start to the second half for Ohio State, scoring 8 of the first 12 second half points thanks to four each by Liddell and Malaki Branham, to take a 41-34 lead into the under 16 media timeout. A Michigan score after an Ohio State turnover trimmed the lead to five, but Young used a Liddell screen on the interior and scored off the glass to keep the Buckeyes up 7. Russell put Ohio State up 10, draining a triple from the top of the key, but Michigan cut it back to single digits, scoring at the rim and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State led Michigan 46-38. Another Wolverine bucket cut the lead to six, but a Liddell bucket in the middle of the lane stopped a 4-0 Wolverine run and ended a 4 and ½ minute scoring drought for the Buckeyes. Michigan cut the lead again back to six and at the under 8 media timeout Ohio State led 48-42. Michigan split a pair of free throws to cut it to 5, but Liddell hit a fade away jumper in the middle of the lane to put Ohio State back up 7. A Michigan dunk cut the lead again, but Liddell and the Buckeyes answered after E.J. bagged a pair of freebies. Another Wolverine dunk once again trimmed the lead, but a Liddell triple from the left corner put Ohio State up 8. After another Michigan bucket, Russell hit a pull up jumper from the left wing and the Buckeyes took a timeout with 3:32 remaining and Ohio State on top of Michigan 57-49. Out of the timeout, Michigan drilled a three to cut the lead to 5, but after the media timeout with 2:59 to play, Young stepped to the line and buried a pair of free throws to put Ohio State up 7. After a Michigan miss, Branham drilled a jumper from the left wing and the Buckeyes were up 9. After a Michigan miss and a Buckeye turnover, the Wolverines took a timeout still trailing by 9 and just 1:23 left in the ballgame. After a pair of Michigan misses, the Wolverines began playing the foul game. After Brown missed a front end, Young split a pair to put Ohio State up 10 with under a minute to play. Michigan cut the lead to 8, knocking down a pair of free throws but time was running short. Two Liddell free throws upped the lead back to 10 and after an illegal screen call on the Wolverines, Michigan coach Juwan Howard was whistled for a technical and Liddell bagged both free throws to put the Buckeyes up 12. Two Wheeler free throws bumped the lead to 14 and Ohio State cleared their bench. A Michigan triple completed the scoring as Ohio State secured a major road victory. 

This win cannot be understated how big it was.  Coming off the heartbreaker at Rutgers early in the week, the team was clearly at a crossroads and heading to a very difficult place to play, just ask Purdue, and to get a win in that environment with all that was on the line was just huge as the team tries to get back into the conference race. Once again, they rode the back of E.J. Liddell offensively, but got a nice contribution by Cedric Russell off the bench and played very good half court defense, especially on Hunter Dickinson, many times doubling down and digging on him with a guard, making life very difficult for Michigan in the half court. Ohio State’s depth showed up again in this basketball game, playing an obviously tired Michigan team, but also one that lacks the depth of the Buckeyes and it definitely made a difference throughout the second half of this game as Ohio State was able to extend their lead and never allowed the Wolverines to get closer than five. They get to enjoy some home cooking for the next three as they try to ride the momentum of this win and move forward and take care of business on the home floor, where they haven’t lost in 10 tries thus far this season.

The Buckeyes head back home for the first of three in the friendly confines, hosting Minnesota in the Schott on Tuesday night.  Tip time is scheduled for 8:30 PM and airing on BTN.

-Jason Harris

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