Columbus, Ohio — To sum it up in one word, it was weird.
At least, that’s what Ohio State’s Andrew Dakich said about facing his former team for the first time after helping hand Michigan a demoralizing 71-62 loss Monday night at Value City Arena.
Dakich, a fifth-year senior, spent the past four seasons donning the maize and blue and made his mark in practices as a walk-on guard under Michigan coach John Beilein. But after redshirting last season and graduating in the spring, Dakich landed at rival Ohio State as a grad transfer for his final year of eligibility.
“To be honest, I didn't think about it until the game,” Dakich said of playing against his former teammates. “I had to study for an exam and that really kept my focus off it, which really helped. I know if it was a normal day and I didn't have anything, I would've been just thinking about, 'What am I going to do?'
“They were talking to me (pregame) and it was all fun. I mean, I miss those guys. Those are my guys and I know this was a tough one for them, but it was really cool to see them.”
And it was hard to miss Dakich. His smiling face graced the cover of the gameday program as he twirled a basketball on his fingertip and plenty of videos of him were shown on the scoreboard during timeouts throughout the game as part of a not-so-subtle troll job.
Antics aside, Dakich said he has nothing but respect for Michigan. He still watches the Michigan’s games and talks regularly with some of his friends turned foes — except for the days leading up to Monday’s matchup.
He even texts sophomore guard Zavier Simpson, whom he took under his wing last season, advice after watching him play on TV.
“I have the most respect for him,” Dakich said. “I think he's going to be a really good, tough player for them. It's weird because I'm telling him stuff to do before he plays me like two or three weeks ago.”
And after guarding one another behind closed doors at practice last season, it was just like old times when the two got the chance to do it on the big stage during stretches in the second half.
Dakich dished out three assists and had one rebound in 16 minutes, but didn’t attempt a shot. Simpson turned in one of his better offensive performances of the season, with 11 points (4-for-5 shooting), four rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 20 minutes.
“He's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen,” Dakich said of Simpson. “It was good to see him be aggressive even though he had a couple drives on me. I hope he continues to do that.”
Dakich is the third player in as many seasons to spend his final year at another Big Ten program, following forward Max Bielfeldt (Indiana) and guard Spike Albrecht (Purdue).
In 49 career games at Michigan, Dakich tallied 22 points, 24 rebounds, 21 assists and seven steals in 203 minutes. In 10 games this season at Ohio State, he has 25 points, 21 assists, 16 rebounds and three steals in 145 minutes.
However, it won’t be the last time Michigan and Dakich cross paths. The Wolverines host the Buckeyes in the home finale at Crisler Center on Feb. 18.
Just don’t expect Dakich to break out any of his old Michigan gear in his Ann Arbor return.
“It's stored back home (in Indiana),” he said. “I had to change my colors real quick. They made me, as they should. I mean, that's why sports are great.
"You have to wear a certain color around here, so that's what I got to wear right now.”
Monday’s game marked a bittersweet homecoming for Ohio natives Ibi Watson (Pickerington), Jaaron Simmons (Dayton), Jon Teske (Medina) and Simpson (Lima).
While playing close to home seemed to provide an extra jolt for Simpson, it was the last thing on his mind.
“We took a tough loss, so I could care less about how I played individually,” Simpson said. “We just gotta learn from it.”
Teske had a rough stretch in the first half, giving up a couple baskets in the paint and failing to secure a couple defensive rebounds. He finished with three points and three rebounds in nine minutes.
Simmons took advantage of early first-half minutes after not playing against Indiana with three assists and one rebound in seven minutes, while Watson hit a 3-pointer in his brief playing time.
The matchup also featured the past two Ohio Mr. Basketball winners in Simpson (2016) and Ohio State forward Kaleb Wesson (2017), whose Westerville South High team knocked out Watson’s team in the state playoffs before beating Simpson’s squad in the state title game at Value City Arena in 2016.