No. 3 Michigan 76, No. 10 Ohio State 74: Survival

En fuego. - Gregory Shamus

A 12-0 Wolverine early gave Michigan hope that this game would not duplicate the performance in Columbus. However, the play the rest of the way undulated violently with the frequency of a gammy ray, which I'm pretty sure is what we were all exposed to while watching this game.

Trey Burke, and in particular the freshmen Wolverines, may have been tired and drained, but the bright lights of a 9 p.m. ET start and yet another formidable foe presaged very little rest.

Kanye West's "Power" rang through the Crisler Center Arena Building before the tip; I'm assuming this was in reference to Craft's heretofore extraordinary power over Trey Burke. Really, no one man should have all that power over Burke.

Michigan's offense stagnated in the first couple of minutes, with both Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. taking questionable shots. At the 18:07 mark, Mitch "CRUNK" McGary entered the game, like a giant roving yellow sun, pitching in a nice bucket at the rim off a Burke dime.

After an Amir Williams block, Nik Stauskas executed a nifty move to create space in the left corner, burying a trey and turning to the crowd for that patented "Are you not entertained?" move. A Glenn Robinson III trey from the same corner on the next possession and a goaltended THJ shot on the next capped an explosive 10-0 run. Early returns were promising.

Out of the timeout, Michigan flummoxed the Buckeye offense with a 2-3 look, DeShaun Thomas missed a 7-8 footer in transition and McGary cleaned up a rebound and pitched in two more big points to extend the run to 12-0. Sam Thompson finally ended the five and a half minute scoreless drought for Ohio State.

Stauskas hit again, this time from Ypsilanti, and Burke completely broke Craft down on the next en route to the rim. Regardless of score, every encouraging thing that could have happened in the game's opening minutes came to pass.

And yet, after all that, a brief OSU spurt narrowed the lead to 18-15. Michigan was fortunate enough to hit its shots early, but some creeping sloppiness as the game approached the 10:00 mark contributed to the Buckeye run. Three-point shooting and offensive rebounding built the lead. The question, of course, was thus: could Michigan settle down and play half court ball after the adrenaline-infused opening minutes?

With Burke stepping out for a bit with a bloody lip, Spike Albrecht subbed in, driving to his right and getting his shot blocked on one possession then losing it out of bounds on the next (i.e. the least Spike Albrechty sequence of this season). Luckily, Burke returned after the tv timeout.

Despite all the talk about the lack of balance in the OSU offense, eight different players scored in the first half. Additionally, even with Michigan's hot start, the two squads sat at 50% from the field with a few minutes to go in the half. A bad shot that appeared to possibly be a long two from Burke allowed the Buckeyes a chance to take their first lead since the opening minutes, an opportunity they cashed in on.

Michigan went into the half down one, 31-30, a disappointing end to what was a tremendous start. Fortunately, a 5/11 mark from downtown and 10 crunktastic points from Mitch McGary redeemed what was at times a sloppy half for the Wolverines.

Halftime Stats

Michigan PPP: 1.04

  • Burke: 2/6, 5 pts, 2 assists
  • McGary: 5/8, 10 pts, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
  • Stauskas: 2/4 from 3, 6 pts

OSU PPP: 1.01

  • Thomas: 3/8, 7 pts
  • Ross: 3/5, 7 pts, 1 block
  • Thompson: 2/2. 5 pts

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The second half picked up where the first left off. An impossibly deep three from Aaron Craft with one second left (that appeared to have left his hands too late) put the Buckeyes up four. Ohio State's perimeter defense continued to clamp down on Burke, continuing to make things difficult for Michigan in the half court. Ohio State seemed receptive to playing a faster game, and it seemed that this would be Michigan's opportunity to land a few haymakers.

Even more concerning is the fact that Michigan either: a) couldn't buy a foul or b) wasn't attacking enough to draw said fouls. In truth, the latter was the case. A nice dish from Burke to Jon Horford for a slam cut the lead to 45-40, but Michigan left Lenzelle Smith open in the corner to bury another trey. Things were quickly starting to look bleak, but GRIII summarily converted on a spectacular and-1, showing the strength and athleticism to hang in the air and finish through contact.

On the bright side, Michigan continued to live a fulfilling and productive life by the three. They went to grad school by the three, raised a family by the three, spent their golden years traveling the world by the three.

A THJ three from straight away cut the lead to two, energizing the crowd for a moment. With a Buckeye two in between, THJ hit another trey from the right wing, very quickly metamorphosing into SEARCH AND DESTROY THJ. A block at the other end resulting in Michigan's possession breathed life into what had been a moribund first ten minutes of the second frame.

Oh, guess what? THJ nailed another three on the ensuing possession, from the same wing, his fourth of the night. This game was exhausting to watch; one could only imagine what the players were feeling, with the game entering the home stretch.

Oh, guess what what? In case you couldn't tell that I'm writing this during the game, THJ just nailed another three, only this time he decided to return to the straight away spot. This is amazing. THJ has turned into Tayshaun Prince during that one game in college when he made 942 threes in a row.

Unfortunately, it was all for naught, as Michigan couldn't buy a stop. If you are a baseball fan, the odds are good that you've said a certain slumping player is "due." Well, Burke, at 3/8 from the field with just over seven minutes to go, was certainly as due as that term paper you were supposed to turn in yesterday.

Again, THJ answered a Williams dunk with a trey, and again, Michigan couldn't get a stop, relinquishing another Williams dunk. Michigan entered the 1-and-1 at the 4:56 mark. After all the threes, THJ missed the front end, a potentially crucial misfire.

Michigan would not go down at home without a fight. A breakaway Burke dunk after a GRIII steal and a Stauskas three that Prince would be proud of threatened to blow the roof off of the Crisler Center. Up one, with three minutes to go, I tried not to hyperventilate, while Denard danced.

A Burke (there he is!) trey put Michigan up three, but a Michigan turnover after corraling a Thomas miss led to a second chance, which he of course buried.

With the ball under a minute to go, Michigan finally executed the pick and roll to perfection, yielding a cathartic McGary slam. On the ensuing possession, a frenetic series of attempts to corral the board eventually resulted in a long two for Smith from the left side. Swish.

The Wolverines had the ball again, 21.3 seconds on the clock, with the chance to run something and end the game. Once again, the poor shot-selecting Burke reared his head. With Thomas switched onto him, Burke opted for an incredibly low-percentage stepback three. It did not go in, and to overtime we went. Heroball every now and then is fine, but there was nothing heroic about that shot.

Redeeming himself, Burke nailed a three in the OT period's opening minute. On the other hand, Michigan continued to stick with the three, probably too much so. THJ started to cool down, missing two in a row. The Wolverines desperately needed to work the body; instead, they spent the first two and a half minutes lobbing wild haymakers.

For the first time in a while, Michigan's defense hunkered down, giving up zero points in the first four minutes. Then, McGary failed to convert at the rim and Craft converted at the basket for two at the other end, another potentially crucial moment in a game composed entirely of potentially crucial moments.

Once again, Michigan had the ball with a chance to, possibly, secure a win, only this time the Buckeyes would have time left over to respond.

With Burke going at Craft, the defensive pest that is Aaron Craft stripped Burke once more; a Burke strip at the other end was the only thing preventing the Buckeyes from going ahead then and there. Michigan, up one with 20 seconds to go, needed a stop. Oh man.

Craft drove middle, with a seemingly uncontested mid-range jumper before him. Trey Burke, as if swooping down from Mount Redemption, swatted the shot from behind. What was briefly debated as a potential flagrant foul on Craft against GRIII sent the latter to the line, no flagrant.

GRIII toed the line for a pair of crucial free throws. He nailed the first with the aplomb of a senior. The second rimmed out.

Craft charged down the floor, straight for the rim, and was rebuffed, with a decidedly non-zero level of contact coming from THJ's contest. In truth, that could have very easily been called...but, it wasn't. A GRIII make on the back end would've allowed for a much cleaner, more satisfying finish, but a win over Ohio State is really all the satisfaction anyone should require.

There is much more to say about this game, both good and bad, but this is already running way too long. For now, I am going to go do some breathing.

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