COLUMBUS, Ohio— An exciting Big Ten basketball season led us to one of college basketball’s biggest matchups of the year. On Sunday, the 3rd ranked Michigan wolverines, and 4th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes matched up as top-5 opponents for the first time in their history. The winner would take a decisive advantage in their positioning for the NCAA Tournament; coming into the game; both teams were projected 1-seeds by the Selection Committee.
With all the hype this game had coming in, it lived up to it on the court. After 12 ties, 18 lead changes, and a constant back-and-forth offensive battle, Michigan came out on top 92-87 to defeat their rivals from Columbus. Both offenses played well; both finished the game shooting above 50% from the field.
For Michigan, the momentum swung their way late thanks to an outstanding effort on the offensive glass, especially from Chaundee Brown Jr. With the game tied at 69, Michigan pulled in 3 offensive rebounds on one possession to keep their scoring chance alive. Brown Jr. had two
of those boards, and he capped the possession with a layup to grab a two-point lead. That lead would never be relinquished, as clutch free-throw shooting helped seal the win for Michigan. Brown Jr. talked about the culture of this Michigan team after the game.
“It’s just a family. Everyone is happy for each other’s success. I have known a lot of teams, there is just a lot of jealousy, a lot of hating. Guys not liking another person because they are playing more minutes than them or they are taking their spot. But here, it’s just different,” said Brown Jr.
The Big Ten Standings are not clear because the conference has yet to decide how the seeding of the tournament will take place (it will likely be decided by conference win %, but the decision has yet to be announced). However, Michigan can be comfortable knowing they sit firmly on top right now and are virtually a lock for the double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
Hot-start from three opens up the paint
From the start, Michigan was firing from three-point range. Eli Brooks hit his first two three- point attempts and that started a tidal wave of threes for Michigan. They dropped in 10 threes on 77% shooting from behind-the-arc in the first half. Brooks and Brown Jr. led the way in that category, both draining 3 three-pointers.
To combat the hot shooting, Ohio State was forced to abandon the double-teams they had been sending Hunter Dickinson’s way in the first half. That proved to be just as big of a problem for the Buckeyes; Dickinson was guarded by the much smaller E.J. Lidell one-on-one for most of the second half. The big man took advantage; he finished the game as the team leader in scoring with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists. He also added 2 blocks as he dominated the paint in the second half.
After a sensational start to his freshman season, Dickinson has drawn the attention of his opponent’s defensive game plans. He has had to evolve his game to better combat the double teams that opposing defenses are sending his way every game, and he did that extremely well on Sunday. The scoring output marked his first 20+ point game since January 6 against Minnesota. Coach Howard said after the game that a one-on-one film session on Saturday night with Dickinson helped prepare him for this moment.
“We had a nice film session last night, just the two of us, on areas of growth. I think that was a big, big reason in how he has been developing,” said Howard.
Ohio State falls despite elite offense from Duane Washintgon Jr.
Ohio State needed elite an elite scoring performance to keep up with Michigan early, and they got just that from Duane Washington Jr. The junior guard from Grand Rapids, Michigan, had his offense going early and often. He carried the offensive load with a career-high 30 points on 12- 18 shooting and 5-10 shooting from three. He was locked in all game, as Michigan defenders had trouble staying in front of him on dribble drives and contesting his long-range shots.
Also, big man E.J. Liddell showed why he is a true contender for Big Ten Player of the Year. Even with the taller Dickinson on him, he showed his ability to knock down shots while also providing crucial buckets in the paint. He finished the game with a double-double on 23 points and 10 rebounds.
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Iowa, Thursday, February 25, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
No. 4 Ohio State @ Michigan State, Thursday, February 25, Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI