Michigan goes cold, falls to No. 16 Ohio State to cap hectic stretch
Ann Arbor — Riding high off an upset over No. 3 Purdue, Michigan had a shot to cap off a busy week with another win over a ranked opponent.
The problem: The Wolverines struggled to make many shots outside of the paint, particularly from beyond the arc, against the No. 16 Buckeyes on Saturday.
Michigan couldn’t overcome another poor outside shooting performance, couldn't stop Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell and faded in the second half as it wrapped up a three-game, five-day stretch with a 68-57 loss at Crisler Center.
“We did recovery. We did all the steps that were necessary to come out here and perform to the best of our capabilities,” said fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks, who scored 17 points on 16 shots and made three of Michigan’s four 3-pointers.
“Sometimes the ball doesn’t fall for you and it didn’t tonight.”
Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson finished with 14 points on 7-for-17 shooting and grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones added eight points, eight assists and 10 rebounds for Michigan (13-10, 7-6 Big Ten).
The Wolverines shot 23.5% from 3-point range (4-for-17), finished 9-for-36 on shots that weren’t dunks or layups, shot 34.5% from the field after halftime (10-for-29) and trailed the entire second half.
Coming out of the break, Michigan got off to a rough start. The Wolverines couldn’t get anything to drop 6 feet from the basket — they missed six of their first seven shots and several open perimeter looks — and Liddell caused problems in one-on-one situations as they fell behind 41-34 with 17:08 remaining.
After Cedric Russell drained a 3-pointer to put the Wolverines in a 46-36 hole, Michigan slowly chipped away at the deficit. Ohio State’s offense misfired and the Buckeyes scored two points over a seven-minute stretch. But as the Wolverines’ shooting woes dragged on, they could only muster three layups and a free throw from freshman forward Moussa Diabate to cut it to 48-43 with 6:44 to go.
That started a stretch where Liddell answered Michigan each time it pulled within five. After he knocked down a jumper in the paint, Liddell countered a dunk by Diabate with two free throws. Then after Dickinson threw down a dunk, Liddell drained a corner 3-pointer to make it 55-47 at the 4:20 mark.
"We wanted to do one-on-one (coverage against Liddell) to keep him by himself because we knew that he was good at passing to the wing," Jones said.
“The game plan for him was make him make tough twos and that's what he did. He had a couple of open shots that made the basket a little bit wider for him.”
A 3-pointer from Brooks pulled Michigan within 57-52 with 3:20 remaining, but the Wolverines ran out of gas down the stretch. They clanked their next six shots and the Buckeyes (15-6, 8-4) made seven free throws in the final minute — two coming from a technical foul on Michigan coach Juwan Howard — to end Michigan’s two-game win streak.
Liddell finished with 28 points — 11 coming from free throws — and Russell scored 12 for Ohio State, which shot 50% from the field (24-for-48) and 88.9% from the free-throw line (16-for-18). The Buckeyes were outrebounded (32-26) and outscored in the paint (36-24) but attempted 12 more free throws.
“You have to have some type of fatigue when you have three (games) in five nights. Unfortunately, that's how the schedule was thrown at us,” said Howard, who called the free throw disparity "alarming" and was frustrated with the officiating.
“We're not going to make any excuses about it. We still had a chance to win the ballgame. But give Ohio State credit. They played well. They played with energy, they played with effort, they played with toughness. And I'm not saying we didn't because we attacked the paint with force.”
The Wolverines did that from the start during a tight first half. Michigan made its first four shots at the rim — highlighted by back-to-back dunks by Diabate — and held Ohio State to one-shot possessions as it took its largest lead, 8-4, with 14:47 left.
After the Buckeyes scored seven straight to take their first lead, Michigan continued to have success attacking the basket. Jones snapped Ohio State’s run with a runner. Freshman guard Frankie Collins scored on a driving layup. Dickinson threw down a two-handed jam to put Michigan up, 14-11, at the 8:45 mark.
From there, the teams traded blows and the lead, with Ohio State hitting some tough shots and Michigan often countering at the rim. After Michigan made its first basket outside the paint on a baseline jumper by Dickinson at the 5:51 mark, Diabate followed with a layup to put the Wolverines up one.
Brooks hit a pair of 3-pointers to give the Wolverines a brief edge, but they couldn’t hold it. Ohio State scored on 10 of its final 12 possessions, made its final six shots and took a 33-30 halftime lead as the effects of playing every other day might’ve started catching up to Michigan.
“We can make those type of (fatigue) excuses, but that's not going to change nothing,” Jones said. “We still have to go out there and perform at a high level whenever we're asked to. That's on us.
“We've got to be more conditioned. We've got to do whatever it takes. We can't make excuses about how many games we had in a certain amount of days. That's the life we chose.”