The bottom of the halftime box score spelled doom for Ohio State. Through 20 minutes at Value City Arena on Monday night, Michigan had a huge advantage in points in the lane (20-10), points off turnovers (15-0) and second-chance points (11-3). The Wolverines also had four fast-break points to zero for the Buckeyes, which was the real art of the first half:

Michigan was driving through the gums of the Ohio State defense for uncontested layups. Or, they were sticking wide-open threes.

The Wolverines led by as many as 20, but the Buckeyes cut their deficit to 43-30 by the end of the half — and there was the glimmer of what would be the art of the second half:

Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate was the man who stepped to the fore, wagged a metaphorical index finger and said, “No, no, Wolverine people in the Dan Fife-looking jerseys, there will be no more of this.”

Tate curled around a pick at the right elbow, swooped down to the block, rose — and the big left-hander threw down a windmill with his right hand. That hopped up the crowd of 12,546. On the Buckeyes’ second possession of the second half, Tate threw down another one, and the fans began to believe a comeback was in the offing. And it was.

Ohio State ultimately drew away to a 71-62 victory. This is the same team that blew big leads against Butler and Clemson. This also is the same team that made everything it looked at and throttled Wisconsin — in Madison — on Saturday.

New coach Chris Holtmann and his staff deserve a lot of credit.

“They adjusted,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “They switched on every ball screen in the second half. We hadn’t seen that this year. That spooked us.”

Give Tate credit. Tate and Keita Bates-Diop and C.J. Jackson, among others, who went through some hard times at the end of the Thad Matta regime. The Ohio State program is in a period of transition, and the faster the Buckeyes can develop an identity the smoother they can transition.

Their intestinal fortitude was on display in the second half last night. That’s a good sign.

“One of the things we hope — we’ll have to prove it — we hope people say about this group is, ‘Man, those guys played hard like (some of Matta’s) teams,’ ” Holtmann said. “Certainly, I heard plenty of fans who were frustrated about the past — some guys that they thought maybe didn’t play as hard. I know coach Matta was frustrated, as well. So, that has to be what we’re about.”

Their ability to read the game, adjust and man up was on display in the second half. Yes, they were awful in the first half. Their defense was terrific in the second. Good on them.

If the Buckeyes are going to do anything this year, they will play more in the style they did in the second half against Michigan than they did in their otherworldly romp over Wisconsin.

“Defense is what we need to be about,” Holtmann said. “If we’re going to succeed, we’re going to have to be difficult for teams to score on consistently. … We’re not going to win shooting contests with a bunch of the elite teams, so we have to be committed defensively.”

Tate showed his teammates how to have the heart to come back. The bear hug he applied to Jackson after Jackson boxed out Michigan’s big man was a wonderful celebration. Bates-Diop then applied the finishing touches with a blocked shot, a defensive stop and a couple of free throws.

“That was an older guy saying, ‘It’s winning time,’ ” Holtmann said. “That was great, great stuff.”

Somewhere, Amir Williams stirred, and he didn’t know why.


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