Ann Arbor — For a team fighting for an NCAA Tournament spot, it was a game Michigan had to have.
After trailing by eight with seven minutes to play against Ohio State, the Wolverines rallied to tie it twice.
But Michigan squandered its chances down the stretch and its postseason hopes were dealt a massive blow as the Wolverines were outworked and outmatched in a 70-66 loss Saturday at Crisler Center.
For the second straight game, Derrick Walton Jr. did his best to keep Michigan (14-9, 4-6 Big Ten) in the game with a season-high 25 points and 10 rebounds but received little help. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 12 and D.J. Wilson added 11 for the Wolverines, who were outrebounded, 42-24, and gave up 19 second-chance points.
"If you're an Ohio State fan, it was probably a really good basketball game. Michigan fan, not so much,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “The really good news is that we really made them miss more shots than we've been making people miss. The bad news is they got so many of those back.”
After Jae’Sean Tate (13 points) and C.J. Jackson hit back-to-back baskets to give Ohio State (14-10, 4-7) its largest lead, 58-50, the Wolverines used a 10-2 run that ended with a Walton 3-pointer to tie it at 60 with 4:23 to play.
Tate hit a jumper and split two free throws to put Ohio State back up by three, but Wilson answered with a corner 3-pointer to pull Michigan even at 65 at the 2:23 mark.
After Marc Loving (17 points) hit a jumper to put Ohio State up two, Michigan forced a shot clock violation with 1:03 to go but Walton missed a layup and tip-in on the ensuing possession, forcing the Wolverines to foul.
JaQuan Lyle added two free throws to put Ohio State up four before Walton hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 67-66 with 26 seconds left.
Lyle gave Michigan hope after splitting two free throws with 25 seconds left to make it 68-66 but Walton missed a baseline jumper and Ohio State corralled the rebound.
“Coach (Beilein) did a great job and drew up a great play,” Walton said. “It was just me and the big guy kind of sagged off, so I took the shot I thought was the best shot available. I've made that shot a thousand times. I kind of left it short but again, the ball just didn't go in. I thought it was a great shot personally.”
Senior guard talks about team's performance and being outrebounded 42-24 in Saturday's 70-66 loss. James Hawkins
Loving added two more free throws with 15 seconds left to make it a four-point game and put the game out of reach as Michigan airballed two 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds.
“I wish (Walton) would've just pulled up and knocked down that 3 and told us all to go home with 15, 20 seconds to go in the game,” Beilein said. “They probably would've had a good shot on the other end instead of trying to get a 2. But we don't want to go for a 3 there if we can get a 2, but I thought the screen was set and it was the same shot he just made.
“Also thought he was going to get an and-1 on his drive to the basket. That would've been a big play, too, but it didn't happen.”
After Michigan shot 52.4 percent (11-for-21) in the first half and trailed by one at halftime, the wheels started to quickly come off as it shot 26.7 percent (8-for-30) in the second half.
The Wolverines opened with back-to-back turnovers, Moritz Wagner and Wilson each picked up their third foul less than 10 seconds apart and Ohio State scored five straight to put Michigan in a 41-35 hole at the 18:18 mark.
Duncan Robinson stopped the bleeding momentarily with two free throws and Walton hit a jumper for Michigan’s first field goal of the second half to make it 43-39 with 15:40 to play.
Ohio State pulled ahead by seven twice before Zak Irvin came up with a steal that led to a Walton 3-pointer, trimming the deficit to 54-50 at the 8:09 mark and setting the stage for the dismal defeat.
"Credit to them. They got some looks,” Walton said. “They were hard to keep off the glass. Credit us as well. We got some really good looks down the stretch. Some rimmed out, some of our best shooters didn't knock them down.
“They did a great job of getting offensive rebounds and second-chance points, but I don't think it's a total loss on the offensive end of us not getting good looks. I think we got great looks."
The second half was a far cry from the start of the game for Michigan, which scored the first seven points and raced out to a 19-8 lead with 14:03 left in the first half.
After Ohio State used an 8-0 run to cut it to 19-16, Michigan maintained its lead and pushed it to 30-22 with 5:17 left in the half following a corner 3-pointer by Abdur-Rahkman.
Michigan coach talks about team's performance in Saturday's 70-66 loss. James Hawkins
The Buckeyes rattled off seven straight points that Trevor Thompson (13 points) capped with an offensive putback to even it at 31. Thompson added a three-point play with 37 seconds left to give Ohio State its first lead and a 36-35 edge at halftime.
"I know we got nine games left and if I had my way we'll win all nine,” Walton said. “The lumps that we're taking right now will help us spearhead a run and I feel like it's worth it.
“We're never a team that gets too down on ourselves, but we got a lot more opportunities in front of us to make our dream a reality. I'm more so focused on anything going forward than what the circumstances are right now."