'It was painful to see it': Wolverines wilt in final minutes, Buckeyes claim big showdown

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Columbus, Ohio — Defense, defense, defense.

That was the primary reason behind No. 19 Michigan’s turnaround last month.

But over the past two games, the defense has been the main culprit as No. 23 Ohio State used a late surge to hand Michigan a 77-63 loss Sunday at Value City Arena.

“I’m not happy,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “When you give up 22 3s in the last two games…it's very disappointing."

The Buckeyes shot 47.4 percent (27-for-57) from the field and broke open a tie game by making eight of their final 10 shots during a 23-9 run over the final 6:27. 

They also shot 52.4 percent (11-for-21) from 3-point range, with three of those deep balls coming during the game-sealing spurt that allowed them to pull away and coast to the finish line.

Michigan forward Isaiah Livers and center Jon Teske walk off the court following Sunday's loss.

After senior center Jon Teske hit a hook shot to knot it at 54 with 6:51 to play, Ohio State started the flurry with an 8-0 burst and two 3-pointers — the first a banked-in deep ball by senior forward Andre Wesson — to go back in front for good with 5:07 remaining.

"It was painful to see it, but that wasn't the only banked 3,” Howard said of Wesson’s shot. “We got a chance to see two to three of them. When guys are making shots like that, obviously the confidence level is extremely high. But it was a back-breaker for us.”

BOX SCORE: Ohio State 77, Michigan 63

Everything unraveled from there for the Wolverines. The Buckeyes capped the spurt with a 13-2 run — which included another banked 3-pointer, this time by junior big man Kaleb Wesson — and extended the lead to as much as 17 in the final minute as they swept the regular-season series.

"Defense. Defensive lapses,” freshman wing Franz Wagner said of what went wrong down the stretch.

“They made some tough shots, but, overall, I think we didn't guard that well. That's how they got their open shots."

Sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. had 20 points and made five 3-pointers to lead five players in double figures for Ohio State (20-9, 10-8). The Buckeyes became the second straight opponent — following Wisconsin on Thursday — to make 11 3-pointers against Michigan.

Redshirt junior guard CJ Walker added 15 points, while Andre Wesson and Kaleb Wesson finished with 14 points apiece and sophomore guard Luther Muhammad scored 10. Ohio State's starters accounted for 73 of the team's 77 points.

“All of them played well,” Howard said, “but Washington really hurt us.”

Wagner finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds and senior guard Zavier Simpson added 12 points and seven assists for Michigan (18-11, 9-9 Big Ten).

In the first meeting, a 61-58 loss on Feb. 4, Michigan’s offense struggled and left plenty of points on the floor as it missed jump shot after jump shot. The Wolverines shot 33.3 percent (20-for-60) from the field in what turned out to be their second-worst offensive performance of the season.

Michigan fared better in the rematch and shot 44.6 percent (25-for-56) from the field, but it still wasn't enough as the Wolverines struggled to knock down outside shots and defend the 3-point line. They shot 26.9 percent (7-for-26) from 3-point range.

Michigan center Jon Teske goes up for a shot between Ohio State forward Kaleb Wesson, left, and guard Luther Muhammad during the first half.

"I mean, I don't think we played poor defense for 40 minutes,” Wagner said. “I think we keep having bad stretches and that's why we lose these games. We've got to be more consistent during a game and just guard for 40 minutes. I think maybe sometimes your shot doesn't fall, but you should be able to guard for 40 minutes.”

Junior guard Eli Brooks returned to the lineup after missing Thursday’s loss to Wisconsin with a broken nose. Michigan was more in sync on the defensive end early on as the teams traded jabs and the lead five times over the first 10 minutes.

That changed when Michigan’s offense hit a rough patch and Ohio State went on a 15-4 run during a stretch where the Buckeyes were hitting 3-pointers, grabbing offensive rebounds and getting loose balls.

Washington capped a string of 10 straight points with back-to-back 3-pointers and Kaleb Wesson got loose for a deep ball on a second-chance opportunity to give Ohio State a 28-20 lead with 5:24 left in the first half.

Michigan could only muster four free throws during the spurt until Simpson snapped a five-minute field-goal drought with a driving layup. Despite making just two baskets in the final eight minutes of the half, the Wolverines’ defense buckled down. Michigan prevented Ohio State from widening the gap and used a late 3-pointer from junior forward Isaiah Livers to pull within 32-29 at the break.

After halftime, Michigan got off to a strong start and used a 9-0 spurt that Wagner capped with an offensive putback for a 38-34 lead with 17:32 to go.

The hot streak quickly cooled off as the misses, lapses and personal fouls started to pick up for Michigan. Ohio State countered with a 12-2 run that ended with two Andre Wesson free throws and a 46-40 advantage at the 13:59 mark.

“We go on runs and then it's right back to (a bad defensive stretch),” Brooks said. “It's not like it's all 40 minutes. It's just some lapses and we have to clean that up.”

The Wolverines were able to claw back as Wagner splashed back-to-back 3-pointers and Teske hit a shot to tie it at 54. But that's when they stumbled the rest of the way and tumbled to their second straight loss after they had won five in a row.

“We don't go into a hole and start hiding,” Howard said. “We don't ask for a pity party. Our main objective is figure out solutions and see how we can get better. I trust that we will get back on track.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins