Ohio State came into Ann Arbor determined to spring an upset on its rival.
The Buckeyes won the first 10 minutes, leading 17-15 on the backs of an offense that scored 1.26 points per its first 13 possessions. The visitors were pushing around the nation’s top efficiency defense.
The Wolverines pushed back, allowing just 32 points over the final 30 minutes. The offense may have manufactured enough points to prevail, but the defense fueled the Top Plays from the 65-49 victory.
Jordan Poole keeps lofting shots, one finally falls
The sophomore from Milwaukee couldn’t buy a jumper early. He missed his first four three-pointers, leading to a 17-12 deficit in the opening minutes.
While the Buckeyes overall won the offensive rebounding battle (11 to the Wolverines’ eight), Poole was the beneficiary of an extended possession Zavier Simpson and Brandon Johns rebounded two of his misses.
The third jack was the charm.
This also fit a theme for the night. Michigan maximized its scoring opportunities, winning the turnover battle by 10 and converting on 13 second-chance points.
Poole finished for 15 points, albeit on 14 shots, to lead all scorers.
Poole also flashed his defensive prowess. His thunderous first-half swat on Kaleb Wesson also made an important statement.
Wesson, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound force inside, tallied 12 points in the first half. He bulled his way for a few buckets, and also tacked on a pair of triples.
With Ohio State trailing 22-19, he received a pass after cutting to the rim, but was emphatically denied from behind by Poole. He would not score for the rest of the game.
With only one other Buckeye reaching double-digits (C.J. Jackson), the block turned the tide on the biggest threat to Michigan’s defense. Without Wesson, Ohio State only managed .79 points per possession on the night.
Matthews three fuels 10-2 run to end the first half
Down 24-22 nearing the end of the half, Michigan made its move. First, Charles Matthews curled towards the three-point line after Simpson drew in several defenders.
Matthews rattled home the triple — his only make of the game on three attempts. After letting up a basket on the next possession, Simpson responded by blowing by the defense for a layup.
A possession later, Simpson again found a Wolverine behind the arc. This time, it was Iggy Brazdeikis with the three, boosting the margin to 30-26. Finally, Matthews scored in both transition and on a second-chance. He missed a fast-break layup, and tipped in his own shot to go into the locker room with the 32-26 lead.
You’ll notice Simpson was involved on most of these plays. He was the most valuable player on the night, recording a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
Eric Shap at UMHoops broke down how dominant Simpson was against his home state school.
Poole takes charge, drains triple
Neither team scored in the first two and a half minutes of the second half. While Michigan eventually crept to a 41-33 lead with 13 minutes left, the visitors were still within striking distance.
Jordan Poole, once again, seized the momentum. He took a charge — with maybe a tinge of acting chops — which left the Buckeyes empty-handed on yet another possession.
He followed that up moments later with a contested three to put the Wolverines up by double-digits for the first time on the night.
It gave the offense confidence the rest of the way, as Simpson and Isaiah Livers drained triples of their own. Just over ten minutes later, Michigan was up by 20 and clearing the bench.
Teske frustrates Wesson, Simpson blocks one from behind
We’ve already discussed that Michigan’s defense shut Wesson out after the opening minutes.
Buckeye Nation moaned afterwards about the lack of fouls called on their big man. As seen by the video above, Teske defended well within the rules. He used his 7-foot-1 frame to get vertical. He didn’t hack at the arms. He also didn’t let Wesson back him down.
Much like Poole earlier, the rest of the defense showed off quick hands to swipe away several easy buckets. The defensive highlight of the night was Simpson tracking down Wesson in transition.
There’s a reason Simpson is a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He’s the glue that holds together the nation’s top-rated defense per Ken Pomeroy.