Ohio State added to what has been an impressive late-season turnaround with a 77-63 win against Michigan on Sunday evening at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes used only seven players, saw all five starters log at least 32:58 of playing time and score all but four points in the win. In front of a sold-out crowd of 18,809, Ohio State led the game for 29:09 and did not trail for the final 15:57 while recording its biggest win against the Wolverines since a 71-52 victory on Jan. 13, 2015.
Here are three key moments that helped the Buckeyes improve to 20-9 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten.
CJ Walker’s and-one drive
Ohio State led by as many as eight points during the first half but took only a three-point lead into the break after closing the first half with five straight empty possessions. Included in there were three misses by go-to junior center Kaleb Wesson, who struggled to a 1-for-9 shooting performance during the first half and missed all of his seven shots inside the three-point line.
The three-point lead grew to five on the first possession of the second half when junior guard CJ Walker hit a jumper, but Michigan’s Zavier Simpson immediately answered with a drive to the basket to start what would become a 9-0 run for the Wolverines that gave them a 38-34 lead and plenty of momentum. During that stretch, here’s what the Ohio State offense produced:
* Duane Washington Jr. missed on a somewhat wild drive to the basket.
* Wesson lost the ball out of bounds for a turnover.
* Luther Muhammad, too, had a wild drive to the basket that he missed.
After Michigan scored on four straight possessions, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann called timeout. Out of the break, he drew up a play that saw Walker utilize a Wesson screen at the top of the key, turn the corner and drive lane to finish with his left hand while being fouled. He hit the free throw, stemming the tide and pulling the Buckeyes back within a point.
Two possessions later, Washington hit two free throws, Ohio State reclaimed the lead at 39-38 and would never trail again.
Michigan didn’t go away, though, and when Jon Teske connected on a left-handed hook shot with 6:51 to play it pulled the Wolverines back even with the Buckeyes at 54. Walker reclaimed the lead with a jumper on the next possession, and then when Teske fouled Wesson on the offensive end for a turnover, it was the older Wesson brother who delivered the dagger.
His nine points helped carry Ohio State during some trying first-half patches, but his biggest shot came when he hit a three-pointer from the top of the circle to give Ohio State a 59-54 lead. It came during the final seconds of the shot clock, and it banked off the glass and in.
Michigan coach Juwan Howard called it a back-breaker. As he ran back down the court, Wesson held up three fingers in celebration. He finished with 14 points, two rebounds, two blocks, one assist and just one turnover in 33:46, but this was arguably his biggest contribution to the game.
Muhammad with the steal
The sophomore guard is known for his defense and, recently, his offense. During the first half he used both to help break some Michigan momentum.
Ahead 15-11, Ohio State’s offense hit a rough patch and went five straight possessions without a basket. Michigan, too, went through a drought, but Simpson picked Walker’s pocket and scored at the other end to give the Wolverines a 16-15 lead. Then, after Kaleb Wesson missed on an out-of-control drive to the basket, Simpson perfectly executed a pick-and-roll situation to feed Austin Davis for a bucket.
It put the Michigan lead at 18-15, and Simpson was smelling blood in the water. The Lima native, had won in every Big Ten arena but the one in his home state, and he was settling in. Andre Wesson answered with a drive to the left baseline where he threw in a mid-range floater, and Muhammad took it from there. On Michigan’s next possession, Muhammad ripped the ball from Davis, sprinted up the court and finished to reclaim the Ohio State lead at 19-18.
Muhammad would slap the floor on the next defensive possession, which ended in a pair of missed free throws from Brandon Johns Jr.
Washington took over from there, drilling threes on back-to-back possessions to complete a 10-0 run that wouldn’t have been possible if not for Muhammad’s spark.