Maybe Dan Dakich was onto something after all.

When the ESPN analyst, former coach and father of Ohio State grad transfer Andrew Dakich picked the Buckeyes as one of his Final Four teams, it was good for a laugh. And to be fair, it still is. It’s a few days into December, and Ohio State has a pair of double-digit blown leads still relatively fresh on its resume.

But now, even fresher, are a pair of ridiculous wins that have the Buckeyes perched atop the Big Ten until conference play resumes in earnest in January. In the span of roughly 48 hours, Ohio State blew the doors off the Kohl Center to hand Wisconsin its worst-ever loss in that arena before coming home, resting for a day and erasing a 20-point deficit to Michigan in the program’s biggest comeback win in a decade.

Realistically, nobody saw this coming. And yet, here we are.

“It’s a long time coming,” fifth-year senior Kam Williams said. “Before, I don’t think we understood what it took to overcome a hole like that. Coaches always implement ‘win every possession,’ so we know if we chip away every possession, giving maximum effort, something we weren’t doing in the first half, I feel like we can achieve anything. We’ve just got to keep winning each possession.”

The difference in halves is staggering. In falling behind 43-30, Ohio State allowed Michigan to shoot 56.7 percent (17 for 30), hold a 20-10 advantage in points in the paint and turn seven turnovers into 15 points. The Buckeyes, in contrast, did not score off a Michigan turnover as the Wolverines had 11 assists and only two giveaways.

Ohio State turned the ball over on its first possession of the second half. It only had two more the rest of the way. It outscored Michigan 20-8 in the paint in the second half and shot 54.5 percent (12 for 22) while Michigan was just 5 for 29 (17.2 percent) including a 1-for-12 effort (8.3 percent) from three-point range.

Schematically, the Buckeyes started switching screens except when center Kaleb Wesson was involved, and Michigan coach John Beilein said it spooked his players. It also allowed Ohio State to clean up its defense and stop allowing straight-line drives to the basket, which was how Michigan scored during the first half when it wasn’t draining barely contested three-pointers.

“I know we played really hard,” junior Keita Bates-Diop said. “I know that. I think it was just the energy against Michigan. We were down (13) at the half and we can’t do down like that. We can’t. We have to give more on each end, and we did.”

Now it’s a two-game winning streak headed into a relatively light portion of the schedule, at least compared to what Ohio State just traversed. After playing six games in 11 days against high-level competition, the Buckeyes will play five games the rest of the month including just one in the next 12 days.

Those Butler and Clemson losses are disappearing in the rearview mirror.

“Obviously it’s a good feeling for us to know that we’re 2-0 in the Big Ten,” junior C.J. Jackson said. “We knew coming into this stretch that whatever happened before, it’s over. It’s a new season once the Big Ten starts, and that’s the approach we took. Obviously it feels good and we’re going to enjoy it now but we’ve got to get better tomorrow.”

Added Bates-Diop, “It taught us a lot. If we play like we did in the second half all game, the game’s really not even that close, and Michigan’s a good team. And it’s hard to win at Wisconsin no matter what year it is. If we carry these things into the non-conference and into the rest of the regular season, Big Ten, I think the sky’s the limit for us. We can be really good.”


A historic night for senior Jae’Sean Tate took a scary turn late in the second half. With Ohio State trailing 58-56, Tate tried to corral a loose ball along the sideline but slipped on a wet spot and fell awkwardly. He needed help to get back up and limped his way to the bench for a timeout with 5:23 to play but remained in the game for the duration.

He did not come out for postgame interviews, however. The Buckeyes sent Bates-Diop (game-high 18 points), Jackson (17 points) and Williams (seven points) but not Tate, who had 14 points and in the process passed John Havlicek on the all-time scoring list.

I asked Holtmann about Tate’s status.

“I think he’s going to be OK,” the coach said. “Doc gave me just a little bit of an injury report, but I think he’s going to be OK. He just plays so hard. We were 2 ½ minutes into halftime and he was breathing so hard I had to give him a blow. To be able to beat a team like Michigan, that’s how we have to play because they put you in so many difficult spots.

“He was fine. I think he’s going to be fine.”

I have no inside information here, but I took note that Holtmann didn’t unequivocally say that Tate is fine so I asked him what goes through his mind when he sees such a key player go down during a game.

“Not good,” Holtmann said. “Not a good feeling. Really, any of our guys right now, but certainly our guys that are our better players. We’re a completely different team without our top couple players.”

Tate did post on Twitter after the game, quoting an Ohio State graphic displaying the fact that he passed Havlicek. 

Blessed to play for this university...on this team..with my brothers!!

— Jt#1 (@o_tate_) December 5, 2017


With Micah Potter sidelined indefinitely as he recovers from a left ankle sprain, Ohio State has increasingly turned to freshman Kyle Young to shoulder more minutes. Tonight, he responded with his best game so far this season, scoring six points and adding four rebounds in 21 minutes of playing time.

All are season-highs, and they don’t even tell the full story of how impactful Young was away from the ball. He helped the Buckeyes check Michigan big man Moritz Wagner and helped keep the Ohio State offense running.

“With Micah out, we’ve had to move him into a different role and he’s been very good,” Holtmann said. “I thought his defense when we were switching on some of those drivers was critical. He’s an athletic kid. I think we all saw that with a couple of his rebounds. He pursues the ball … we don’t win the game without him tonight.”


Here’s a few tweets I spotted after the game. Here’s how the Buckeyes themselves celebrated:

Comeback Complete. #GoBucks

— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) December 5, 2017

Ohio State men’s basketball legend Clark Kellogg weighed in:

Very impressive comeback dub for @OhioStateHoops. 45-19 last 22 mins. Inspired effort with @KBD_33 and Tate leading the way. But game balls earned by most everybody. 
@OhioStAthletics #GoBucks

— Clark Kellogg (@ClarkKelloggCBS) December 5, 2017

From former Ohio State football player Kirk Herbstreit:

Huge comeback win tonight by @OhioStateHoops over Michigan. Down 20 in 1st Half. Really impressed by @ChrisHoltmann in his first year as head coach. Congrats fellas!!

— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) December 5, 2017

Here’s CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein:

Eight days after blowing a lead against Butler in the PK80, Chris Holtmann has Ohio State at 2-0 in Big Ten play. Tremendous 48 hours for the Buckeyes.

— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 5, 2017

From ESPN college basketball and recruiting analyst Jeff Borzello:

Since losing at home to Clemson, Ohio State has won at Wisconsin and against Michigan by a combined 34 points.

— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) December 5, 2017


Greg Oden played in a manager basketball game today. The video speaks for itself. 

You haven't seen domination until you've watched Greg Oden play in a manager game. @JayBilas @GoodmanESPN

— Joey Lane (@JoeySmoke11) December 4, 2017


“It was a pretty straightforward conversation. I said my peace after the Clemson game and had to deal with the pain of that with my hand on the board after for the next couple days. This one was more just, listen, our effort had to improve and as coaches we had to talk about our ball screen defense because I didn’t think we were putting them in as good position as we could’ve. I don’t think we played with great poise offensively in the first half.” – Holtmann, on his halftime talk.


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