Columbus, Ohio — Many times this season, Michigan coach John Beilein has mentioned the importance of winning on the road in the Big Ten. And for the Wolverines to put themselves in position to contend for the conference title, they needed a win at Ohio State — where, by the way, they hadn’t won since 2003.
But No. 15 Michigan survived a lackluster first half and surged in the final 20 minutes to take a 70-60 victory over the No. 22 Buckeyes on Tuesday night.
The win gives the Wolverines a rare triple — wins at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, something they hadn’t done since 1992-93.
Asked about the significance of the difficult road wins, Beilein joked: “I won’t get that question next year.”
“All these games, these road wins are part of it,” he said. “This is unusual in this league to have road wins that are coming around. It gives these kids a great deal of confidence.”
Nik Stauskas had 15 points, and Derrick Walton Jr. had his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds and added six assists for Michigan (18-6, 10-2 Big Ten).
“We love getting road wins — that’s one of the hardest things to do in this conference,” said senior Jordan Morgan, who had six points and eight rebounds. “Any time you can get one of those, it’s big. Obviously, this game means a lot to a lot of people. For us to come into this hostile arena and get this win is big for us.”
Michigan trailed by 10 with three minutes left in the first half, but chipped away at the lead in the final 20 minutes. The Wolverines took their first lead since the opening minutes with a 12-0 run midway through the second half.
Stauskas had two free throws to put Michigan ahead, 44-43, and got another basket. Walton capped the run with a three-point play, for a 49-43 lead with 9:15 left.
The Buckeyes pulled closer on Ross’ three-point play with 6:21 left, cutting the lead to 51-50, but Morgan added a putback basket off an offensive rebound and Walton converted a 3-pointer to boost it back to 56-50.
Walton scored all 13 of his points in the second half, keying the Wolverines’ surge and helping make adjustments late.
“I’m the point guard, so I know I have to speak up in times of adversity,” Walton said. “It’s becoming second nature to speak up when I see something.”
Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) closed to four on a Sam Thompson dunk, but Amir Williams missed a one-and-one free-throw situation that could have cut the lead to two.
From there, Michigan scored the next seven points, with a 3-pointer by Glenn Robinson III and three free throws from Walton, who was fouled on a 3-pointer near the end of the shot clock.
“Glenn’s shot in the right corner was a huge shot for us,” Beilein said. “If you look at his stats, he’s struggled from there — he’s a good shooter — but a great confidence-builder for him.”
Robinson added two more free throws with 1:32 left to give Michigan its largest lead, 64-52.
From there, the Wolverines held on and made six of seven free throws in the final minute.
It was a change from the first half, in which Michigan shot only 32 percent (9-of-21) from the field, making just two of its first nine field-goal attempts.
Stauskas got the Wolverines on the board with a step-back 3-pointer, as he was guarded by Ohio State’s defensive specialist, Aaron Craft.
The Buckeyes pulled ahead early with an 8-0 run sparked by a dunk from LaQuinton Ross (24 points) and a scoop by Lenzelle Smith Jr. (13 points). Ohio State led, 17-8, after the run, but LeVert hit a drive to end the run.
Michigan rallied and cut the lead to five, but Williams hit a basket and Smith followed with a 3-pointer to make it 26-16 with 6:22 left in the half. Michigan had a 10-2 spurt near the end of the half to 28-26 in the final minute, but Ross was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 1.4 seconds left and made the first two, giving the Buckeyes a 30-26 halftime advantage.
“We had to stay united,” Beilein said. “We were still going to make some errors here and there but we fought through the mistakes we made.”
Ohio State looked to pull away in the second half, with seven straight points after Stauskas opened the half with a 3-pointer. But Michigan answered with a 6-1 spurt, with two baskets by Jon Horford (eight points, four rebounds).
Michigan’s defense got enough stops down the stretch to keep the Buckeyes at bay, holding them to 41 percent (11-of-27) in the second half.