The Michigan Wolverines (13-9, 4-7 B1G) came into Tuesday night’s game against the Ohio State Buckeyes (15-7, 5-6 B1G) looking for a victory to stay hot, but dropped a tough decision 61-58 to their visiting rivals.
Zavier Simpson led the scoring attack for Michigan with 15 points on the night, 13 of which came in the second half. OSU was led by Kaleb Wesson’s 23 points.
Neither of these teams were playing flashy basketball in the early part of this game, thought it was every bit as physical as one would expect the football games in this rivalry to be. Through the first 10 minutes of play in the first half, Ohio State held a 13-7 lead as both teams combined to shoot 9-for-34 from the floor. The Buckeyes would eventually head into the locker room with a 28-27 lead with both teams struggling from the floor throughout the rest of the half, as well. OSU shot only 41.4 percent from the floor, while the Wolverines had a 31 percent mark in the opening 20 minutes. Wesson had 15 of OSU’s 28 first half points.
It was more of the same in the rock fight between the two rivals in the second half. Both of these squads may have a shot at the NCAA Tournament, but the totality of the product looked like two teams at the bottom half of the standings in conference play. That said, there were quite a few haymakers thrown by both teams despite their struggles with the scored tied up at 38-38 with just over 12 minutes to play in the game. The officials, for better or worse, let a lot of things slide in this one and the two teams continued to slug it out with the Buckeyes leading 42-41 at the 8-minute mark of the second half.
Both teams started to cook down the stretch with the squads swapping leads 13 times heading into the final four minutes of the game as the Wolverines and Buckeyes were tied at 51-51 at the under-4 timeout. Simpson got going in the second half and they continued to get big minutes out of Austin Davis off the bench. Eli Brooks nailed a three with 1:21 to play to give Michigan a 56-54 lead, but it was immediately answered by Duane Washington Jr. of Grand Rapids, Michigan to put the Buckeyes back ahead 57-56 with 54 seconds to play. Simpson went to the line for a pair of free throws with 33.3 to play, but was also called for a flagrant-1 foul on Kyle Young for pulling him to the ground by his jersey or something (it was a bad call). Simpson sunk both, as did Young at the other end, to put the score at 59-58 Buckeyes. OSU’s CJ Walker hit a pair of free throws at the end of the game to seal it for the Buckeyes at 61-58.
- I understand the criticisms of Michigan’s offense, but its only flaw really is in its execution. Juwan Howard has them running good sets and getting wide open looks, but these guys cannot consistently hit shots. And some fans may be confused by that because they were John Beilein recruits and generally his teams had a ton of firepower. The guys left behind were not really accomplished shooters when Beilein was here and for a few of them, never even were recruited to be that coming out of high school. It’s just another example of this roster being what it is for what now. I’ve seen fans call this team soft on social media and in the comments here at times, but they have only really had a poor “effort” game once this year when they lost to Penn State at home. This group brings it most nights and deserves props for that despite its limitations. But again, they shot 20-for-60 on the floor on Tuesday. That just isn’t going to get it done.
- On the flip side of Howard’s coaching, this was a rough night down the stretch. The decision to not foul earlier in the final minute of play essentially damaged their ability to grab a potential win here. Howard said after the game that they were going for the trap and steal and once they could not get it, then decided to foul. The final play to Brooks was a shot they wanted, but like the rest of their issues, it just did not go down.
- Jon Teske did not play well on Tuesday night. He was 1-for-7 from the floor and had only 3 points and finished with work 7 rebounds. Austin Davis, however, was second on the team in scoring with 11 points. It’s hard to single out anyone when the entire team struggled to shoot, but Teske’s bad day was jarring.
- Franz Wagner continues to struggle shooting the ball, but grinded his rear-end off on Tuesday night, coming down with 14 rebounds. He struggles to hit his wide open shots and make his layups, but he plays hard despite how raw he still is.
- Let’s talk about the officiating in this game for a moment, because it was bad. It was bad on both sides until the flagrant foul at the end of the game where Simpson was bracing himself for a fall and ripped Kyle Young’s jersey. Chris Holtmann said that the ripped jersey was evidence enough for him, while Howard said he did not see it and was not sure what happened. It honestly stinks that a game like this with very few whistles gets determined by one in the end, but these are the things we have come to expect with the officiating in this conference on a nightly basis. It is not why they lost, but it was a defining moment in the game and if they feel as if this one was taken from them, I suppose I cannot blame them.
- Overall, this is one of the more painful losses of the season and another home game that was winnable. They have probably left at least 2-3 wins on the board this year but failing to close out down the stretch, which can be expected with a team with so many strange pieces. The more concerning thing is the stretches where Simpson and Teske just disappear, which absolutely cannot happen right now. Not with Isaiah Livers out, who missed his third game in a row and ninth on the season with the groin injury.
Next up for Michigan is a rivalry rematch with the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday afternoon at Crisler Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET on FOX.