ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The ultimate fate of Kyle Young’s No. 25 jersey remains unknown.
Whatever its corporeal final destination, the tattered remnants of his scarlet road jersey will remain as part of Ohio State men’s basketball lore long after his career is complete. When Michigan’s Zavier Simpson ripped it clean down the middle with 33.3 seconds left at the Crisler Center, it set the Buckeyes in motion toward a grueling, 61-58 win against the Wolverines on Tuesday night.
Ohio State (15-7, 5-6 Big Ten) has won three straight games, two of them on the road, to distance itself from a stretch of six losses in seven games.
"We’ve grown a lot in these last couple weeks," Young said.
One possession after Duane Washington Jr. had given Ohio State a 57-56 lead with a straight-on three-pointer with 54.1 seconds to play, Simpson drove the lane and drew a foul on Young as he missed an attempt from the left block. As he put up the left-handed runner, the Michigan senior grabbed a firm hold on Young’s jersey and yanked as his momentum pulled him to the floor.
After a video review, Simpson was assessed a flagrant 1 foul. He stepped to the line, hit his free throws and then watched as Young did the same at the other end to give Ohio State the 19th and final lead change of the game.
"That was crazy," a smiling Young said. "I’ve never had my jersey ripped before, but I practice free throws every day. I just tried to stay as calm as possible. That was probably the loudest that place has ever got for me shooting free throws anywhere."
It wasn’t over, though. After Young, a career 57.7% free-throw shooter, knocked down his two shots, Ohio State took possession and got the ball into the hands of junior guard CJ Walker, who was fouled with 17.9 seconds to play.
Scoreless to that point in the game, Walker made both to set the final score that held up when Eli Brooks missed a three-pointer with one second remaining. Then, and only then, could the Buckeyes celebrate.
"Great sign for him," coach Chris Holtmann said of Walker. "I thought he really competed on both ends. I was really proud of him. He’s a gutsy kid."
The late-game theatrics would have been impossible if not for perhaps the best all-around game of Kaleb Wesson’s career. He entered having averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in three games against the Wolverines (13-9, 4-7) but finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Along the way, he adjusted to Michigan’s defense, scoring on pick-and-pop situations during the first half and excelling on the pick-and-roll during the second.
He also sported a significant scratch down the left side of his neck that he joked came from a "sabertooth" without elaborating further.
"He played like what he is — one of the best big men in the country," Holtmann said.
Washington provided a significant boost, finishing with 17 points. As a team, the Buckeyes committed a season-low eight turnovers.