ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The top-ranked defense in the nation lived up to its billing Tuesday night. So did a No. 5 national ranking, and none of it spelled good news for Ohio State.
After bursting out to 17 points in the first 8:37 of their game at Michigan, the Buckeyes scored only 32 the rest of the way, endured some chippy moments and fell 65-49 to the Wolverines at the Crisler Center.
Trailing by 6 at halftime, Ohio State (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten) scored on just one of its first nine possessions but was still close after a Duane Washington Jr. three-pointer with 12:18 left made it a 44-36 deficit. But then Michigan (20-1, 9-1) steadily pulled away, with a 10-2 run late in the half pushing the lead to as many as 16 points.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
By that point, the game had taken an ugly turn with 8:05 to play and Michigan leading 50-38. After Kaleb Wesson was called for a foul following a Justin Ahrens three-point miss, words were exchanged between Wesson and Michigan’s Jordan Poole and Zavier Simpson. Jon Teske was around the scene, too, and Wesson pushed him away as the teams converged and coach Chris Holtmann rushed out to grab Wesson and try to restore order.
Wesson was given both a common and technical foul. So was Keyshawn Woods. Simpson and Teske got technical fouls. The result was Teske hitting two free throws to push the lead to 52-38, and a crowd juiced by the announcement of no school Wednesday roared its approval. The situation seemed exacerbated by a play moments earlier when Simpson chased down Wesson from behind and blocked his dunk attempt.
Simpson, a Lima native, got the last laugh, recording a triple-double with 11 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He exited with 1:22 to play and received a standing ovation from the 11th straight sellout crowd at the Crisler Center.
Against the stingiest Big Ten defense, which was allowing only 59.0 points per conference game, Ohio State came out surprisingly hot thanks to Wesson. The sophomore hit a three-pointer on the game’s first possession, grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on the second, and assisted on a C.J. Jackson drive on the fourth for a 7-2 lead. With the Wolverines struggling to knock down open shots, the Buckeyes built a 17-12 lead with 11:23 left in the first half.
It was an unsustainable pace, particularly as Michigan’s defensive length and pressure started to force the Buckeyes into turnovers. By halftime, the count was 11 that Michigan had turned into 8 points, and it helped the Wolverines build a 32-26 halftime lead.
In between Wesson’s basket from the left block that made it a 19-16 Ohio State lead at 9:32, the Buckeyes did not score again until C.J. Jackson drew a foul and hit two free throws with 4:26 remaining to pull them within 22-21.
It was the start of a personal run of seven points for the senior, who attacked the basket and drew contact on each possession. His final runner gave Ohio State a 26-25 lead with 2:27 to play, but Michigan closed with a 7-0 run during which OSU turned it over twice, shot an airball and came up empty on a pressured, half-court heave as time expired.
Michigan improved to 34-2 in its last 36 games.