The third-ranked Michigan Wolverines have faced about every test that could be thrown their way so far this season. The toughest to date was Sunday’s showdown on the road with the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Another test passed.
Michigan moved to 16-1 (11-1 in Big Ten play) with a 92-87 victory over the rival Buckeyes in Columbus. The Wolverines were led by 22 points and nine rebounds from center Hunter Dickinson, while guard Eli Brooks chipped in with 17 points of his own. Chaundee Brown (15 points), Isaiah Livers (12 points) and Mike Smith (11 points) finished the game in double-figures, as well.
Duane Washington (30 points), E.J. Liddell (23 points) and C.J. Walker (15 points) led the charge for Ohio State on Sunday.
This was a nationally-televised game on CBS and lived up to the hype. This the heavyweight prize fight that it was billed as. Michigan and OSU both shot 53 percent from the floor and neither group led by more than six until the Wolverines started to pull away in the final minutes.
The Wolverines came out and struggled a bit early on, but were able to take a 45-43 lead into the locker room at the half due to its 10-of-13 shooting from three-point range. Brown, Brooks and Smith were 7-for-7 from three in the first 20 minutes.
Dickinson took over in the second half in one of his most impressive performances to date. He scored 16 of his 22 points in the final half of play despite looking gassed throughout much of the afternoon. He was able to dig deep and exploit another mismatch to help his team to a victory.
The most impressive part of Sunday’s win was Michigan’s resilience against an elite team that threw the kitchen sink at them. A long-running plot thread with this group has been the ability for anyone to emerge on any given night as the hot hand offensively. The efforts of Brown, Smith and Dickinson, the “new” faces who aren’t so new anymore, once again illustrated just how special a job Juwan Howard has done in building the roster.
Both programs put on a show on Sunday and proved their worth at the top of the rankings. Michigan answered another major challenge with a defining performance that solidifies them as the best team in the Big Ten and a group that has a legitimate shot at a national championship.
Next up for Michigan is a showdown with potential Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza and the Iowa Hawkeyes. That game is set fo Thursday evening at Crisler Center after being rescheduled from March 4.