Michigan coach talks about his team's performance and "Senior Day" in Sunday's 74-62 win in the home finale. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan found itself in control with a double-digit lead over Ohio State in the second half.
This time around, the Wolverines flipped the script and avenged their crushing loss earlier this season with an emotionally charged 74-62 victory over the Buckeyes in front of a sellout crowd in Sunday’s home finale at Crisler Center.
Senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the charge on “Senior Day” with 17 points for No. 22 Michigan (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten), which snapped a three-game losing skid in the series. Freshman Jordan Poole provided a spark off the bench with 15 points — 12 coming in the first half — while sophomore Zavier Simpson scored 13 and junior Moritz Wagner added 12 points and seven rebounds.
“They're really tough to score on and we needed some magic in a bottle a little bit to just get ourselves going in the first half, get a lead and Jordan Poole gave us some of that,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It was a great team effort in every way for our team. I think when they cut it to three (in the second half), we made just about every good play you could make down the stretch to get the 'W.'
“I was really proud of the way we battled the whole time.”
After Michigan’s offense slowed down and missed four of its five first shots to open the second half, Ohio State chipped away at the lead with an 8-2 run to make it 38-36 with 16:30 remaining.
But as he has all season, Abdur-Rahkman came up with a big shot that snapped a roughly four-minute field-goal drought at the 15:09 mark and eventually helped Michigan’s offense get back on track.
From that point, the Wolverines scored on six straight possessions, including five consecutive field goals, to extend the lead to 55-46 with 10:08 to play. Charles Matthews and Jaaron Simmons helped cap the stretch with back-to-back layups before Abdur-Rahkman knocked down a jumper.
When it seemed like Michigan was starting to pull away, though, Ohio State pushed back with six straight points — three points from Jae’Sean Tate and a 3-pointer by Keita Bates-Diop — to cut it to 55-52 at the 7:53 mark.
That’s as close as it would get as Michigan countered with a 13-3 run and Ohio State went on to miss nine of its next 10 shots. Abdur-Rahkman nailed a 3-pointer and Wagner converted a three-point play to cap the spurt, giving Michigan a 68-55 cushion with 2:12 to go and effectively putting the game out of reach.
“We knew defense could win us this game and we knew the offense was going to come,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “We just had to get stops, force turnovers and that's what we did.”
Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson fittingly added the finishing touches with two free throws apiece in the final 1:02 to seal the rivalry win as Michigan finished 15-1 at home this season.
Tate finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds and Bates-Diop scored 17 for No. 8 Ohio State (22-7, 13-3), which won the rebounding battle, 40-30, and had a 13-2 edge in second-chance points, but had 14 turnovers that led to 22 Michigan points.
Ohio State’s loss gives Michigan State a full-game lead in Big Ten standings.
“Give Michigan credit for making it difficult for us to run our offense,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “They're a good defensive team. They forced our guards to make plays.
“They crawled up into us, really pressured us, extended us and kind of did a little bit of what we did to them at our place honestly. It was very similar to what we did to them in the second half (in the first meeting).”
Michigan’s defense was on point early and had no trouble getting in the passing lanes to disrupt Ohio State’s offense as the Wolverines forced four turnovers in the Buckeyes’ first five possessions during a physical back-and-forth start.
After Ohio State managed to take a 14-10 lead with 10:51 left in the first half, Poole splashed a 3-pointer and Wagner threw down a dunk to spark a 16-4 run. During the spurt, Poole added a nifty layup and a four-point play sandwiched around a 3-pointer from Abdur-Rahkman that helped put Michigan up, 26-18, at the 5:19 mark.
“Just lock in, that's all it is,” Poole said. “Obviously, it's a big game and I try to be a big-time player. Just stepping up, being efficient and just trying to come out and make big-time plays.
“They have so much confidence in me, especially when I get into the game and I got an open shot.”
The Buckeyes managed to pull within three — thanks to two offensive putbacks by Tate — before Poole rattled in another 3-pointer and Jon Teske knocked down a short jumper to re-establish an eight-point advantage.
However, it didn’t last as Bates-Diop drilled a 3-pointer before time expired to seemingly stem the momentum and cut Michigan’s lead to 33-28 at halftime. This time, though, it didn’t faze the Wolverines and snowball into a game-changing second-half run.
“There was an emphasis on a lot of those things — ‘Senior Day’ and that it's a rivalry game,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I think that was the biggest emphasis was on how they beat us the first time and we didn’t want that to happen today, so we knew we had to go out there and play for a full 40 and not just a half.
“Any time you beat your rival, they're a top-10 team and it's ‘Senior Day,’ there’s not much better than that.”