ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ohio State men’s basketball was evenly matched with Michigan, until it wasn’t.
The Buckeyes (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) fell to the Wolverines (21-2, 8-2 Big Ten) in overtime, 76-74, Tuesday night in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Down two in overtime, junior guard Aaron Craft’s drive to the basket was met with contact, but no whistle and the Wolverines escaped with the victory.
“I just watched it (the last shot),” said OSU coach Thad Matta following the game.
“It is what it is.”
The game’s second half ended with four separate ties, but 40 minutes wasn’t enough for the Big Ten foes as they entered overtime knotted at 72. But the extra period brought stumbles and missed shots.
In line with his role as OSU’s most-potent scorer, junior forward Deshaun Thomas started off the contest with a seemingly effortless two points.
The Wolverines responded though, attacking from inside and out. When Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke’s layup went through the net with 12:29 remaining in the half, Michigan held an 18-8 advantage.
But the Buckeyes did not wilt despite a hostile Crisler Center. Contributions from sophomore forwards LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson fueled OSU back into contention.
Ross’ layup with 1:05 remaining in the first half gave OSU a 31-30 lead- its first in nearly 15 minutes.
OSU ended the half shooting 50 percent from the floor compared to Michigan, which shot 44 percent.
Matta lauded his team’s offensive outing and attributed much of it to basic fundamentals.
“I thought we had movement, we were screening … we were extra passing it,” he said. “It seemed like we had more purpose to it, which was what one of the keys to the game was, we needed a great purpose to what we were doing.”
OSU opened the second half on a 10-7 run in the first five minutes to extend its lead. Michigan, behind junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. caught fire. Hardaway hit five 3-pointers in the second half, including 12 straight points for the Wolverines to give them a narrow 55-54 advantage with under nine minutes remaining.
It was something Matta was well aware of.
“(Hardaway) caught fire,” he said. “And really the whole team.”
Down the stretch, the teams volleyed for the lead and though the Buckeyes trailed by two with under a minute remaining, a jumper from junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. evened the score at 72.
Burke had a chance to win the game in regulation, but his step-back shot from beyond the arc clanked off the rim, sending the contest into overtime.
The extra period proved to be an offensively anemic one, with neither team able to find its offensive footing.
Craft managed a layup with just under a minute remaining in the period, but that was the only bucket OSU would muster. Craft missed two shots in the final 10 seconds as Michigan’s four points in overtime were enough to earn the Wolverines a victory.
“You got to give Michigan credit,” Matta said. “They took a heck of an effort on their part, the plays that they made were tremendous plays.”
Scoring was distributed more evenly than usual across OSU’s squad Tuesday night.
Thomas totaled 17 points in the game, and not far behind were Ross’ 16. Craft added 11 and Smith Jr. scored 10.
Their contributions were part of what seemed to be one of the Buckeyes’ most complete performances-even in defeat.
“I saw some things from this team that I hadn’t seen and I was obviously down with the loss but hopefully we have the ability to build off of that,” Matta said. “There was some big plays made by guys, some extra effort plays.”
Michigan came into the game off of a loss, 81-73, to No. 1 Indiana on Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. Michigan’s first loss of the season was against OSU on Jan. 13 in Columbus, 56-53.
OSU is next set to take on Indiana (20-2, 8-1 Big Ten) on Sunday at the Schottenstein Center at 1 p.m.