After five losses replete with heartbreak, the Wolverines sought to swing the karmic pendulum in one fell swoop.
Michigan jumped out to a 7-0 lead Sunday afternoon against the visiting No. 24 Ohio State Buckeyes, paced by some hot shooting from Zak Irvin.
They didn't stop there, eventually gaining a 20-point lead, doing everything right while the Buckeyes seemed discombobulated.
The signature moment, of the game however, came on defense. The Buckeyes charged back in the second half, but, late in the contest, one Spike Albrecht picked D'Angelo Russell's pocket near the halfcourt line. Albrecht buried two free throws to extend the lead to 10, en route to a 64-57 win for the Wolverines, who moved to 14-13 (7-8) on the season, with their first win since a 58-44 triumph against Nebraska on Jan. 27.
The first 20 minutes, however, featured the best basketball Michigan has played all season.
Kameron Chatman executed the two best plays of his young career, going coast-to-coast to finish with windmill-esque layups at the rim. Shortly thereafter, Andrew Dakich buried a corner triple to extend Michigan's lead to 20, 31-11.
(In Dakich's fist-pumping exultation, he found himself in no man's land between two Buckeyes on the wing in the secondary break, resulting in an open trey for Keita Bates-Diop. But, given the circumstances, I imagine even John Beilein could let that one slide.)
The Crisler Center rocked and rolled as the Wolverines entered the halftime break up 16. The first half featured the best, loosest basketball Michigan has played all season, with good look after good look generated by the offense and guys hitting said good looks. Irvin scored 10, while Spike Albrecht and Ricky Doyle pitched in eight apiece.
Things started to shift in the second. The Buckeyes launched a 9-3 run to start the second frame, and an 14-0 run later in the half, with the Wolverines going scoreless for nearly eight minutes, a familiar story for the 2014-15 team.
After leading 49-32 in the second half at the 13:22 mark, Michigan didn't score again until an Irvin three with six minutes remaining. In that time, the Michigan lead evaporated on the heels of that 14-0 run, as the Buckeyes sliced and diced the Michigan defense while Michigan's offense bogged down, reminiscent of the many scoring droughts suffered this season.
Up 56-50 late, an Irvin fadeaway attempt fell off the mark. Luckily for the Wolverines, Max Bielfeldt snagged the offensive board. Shortly thereafter, Aubrey Dawkins couldn't connect on an attempt at the rim. Once again, Bielfeldt muscled away a board and fouled in the process -- but was unable to hit the front end of his one-and-one after the TV timeout.
On the heels of the Buckeyes' furious comeback, Michigan's once-sizable lead, survival became the order of the day.
The Buckeyes continued to get to the rim with ease. Fortunately for Michigan, freshman D'Angelo Russell missed the front end of his one-and-one after being fouled on a swift drive to the basket.
On the ensuing possession, a nifty dime from Albrecht wasn't to be, as Bielfeldt botched the layup. He made up for it by diving on the floor for a loose ball, which eventually resulted in an Irvin drive for two at the other end.
The pendulum continued to swing back in Michigan's favor, as Albrecht picked Russell's pocket near the halfcourt line -- reminiscent of Trey Burke, as Drew Hallett noted -- and was fouled on his layup attempt going the other way.
Albrecht buried the first, then the second, to push Michigan's lead back to 10 with 55.1 seconds left, its first double-digit lead in nine minutes.
John Beilein elected to roll with the 1-3-1 on the next possession -- Ohio State answered with a wide open corner three, cutting Michigan's lead back to seven.
Nonetheless, it was too late for the Buckeyes, as the Wolverines finished the visitors off from the free throw line for a cathartic win.
Indeed, the Wolverines reverted to their previous offensive form in the second half, unable to generate much offense while also struggling to keep Ohio State's slashers away from the rim.
When it came down to it, though, Michigan provided the response it needed late in the game, highlighted by Albrecht's masterful bit of defensive presence near the block M.
Most importantly, the first 20 minutes were a reminder of what Michigan basketball can look like, if not also a painful reminder of what it hasn't been, in light of injuries and late-game collapses. On this afternoon, none of that mattered.
There was no overtime, no collapse, no defeat. There was a team diving on the floor for loose balls, young players hitting shots they haven't hit all season and Andrew Dakich's first field goal of the season. On this Oscars Sunday, I'd say those are the elements of a pretty good movie.
Albrecht led the Wolverines with 16, while Irvin added 15. Bielfeldt pitched in seven points and seven boards, not to mean a number of LBDs (loose ball dives), which isn't a kept statistic but probably should be if raw rebounding margin is still a thing to which people pay attention.
The Wolverines shot 47.3 percent from the field (36.8 percent from three), while holding Ohio State to 42.3 percent (26.3 percent from three). The freshman Russell scored 16, but not efficiently (6-for-15 from the field), and turned it over five times, including the aforementioned Albrecht steal.
With the win, the Wolverines edge one game closer to a .500 league record. They don't hit the floor again until a trip to Maryland on Saturday.
Winning is always fun, but it's often as much about how you win. Today, the Wolverines showed both the positive of what they can be and the other side, what they have been, making for an exhilarating drama of college basketball madness.
It won't edge "Boyhood," "American Sniper," or any of the other headlining Oscars nominees, but today's drama in Ann Arbor was the best movie I've seen this season.