Videos were shown, elbows were thrown, some choice words were exchanged and bodies hit the floor.
Whenever Michigan and Ohio State square off — regardless of the sport — there are sure to be some fireworks and animosity. On Sunday, though, bolstered by both teams’ top-5 rankings and their recent encounters, the intensity was ratcheted up.
The bitter rivals were at each other’s throats with hard fouls, aggressive drives to the rim and players diving for loose balls. The Wolverines seemed to relish the physicality.
“I like these types of games, dog fights,” senior guard Chaundee Brown said. “Like (Michigan coach Juwan Howard) says, it’s a boxing match.”
From the tip-off, it was clear the game was going to be a war of attrition. Whichever team was left standing at the end was going to have to earn it. Using every bit of motivation afforded by the Buckeyes, Michigan did just that.
It’s typical for players and coaches to claim that they view each game in a vacuum, that they don’t look ahead to any one opponent and don’t look back at the results of previous seasons. For the Wolverines, who hadn’t won in Columbus since 2014, this was not the case.
“The biggest thing that we came into it looking at was our record at Ohio State,” senior guard Eli Brooks said. “That’s something we really wanted to change at the start of the day. That’s what drove us the most.”
While seniors like Brooks didn’t want to see their 0-3 road record extended further, even those playing in their first game against the Buckeyes had added motivation.
Prior to the game, Howard showed the team a video of Ohio State players dancing in the locker room after beating Michigan for the second time last year. The Buckeyes subsequently also started a tradition of presenting “golden jersey” trinkets to players who sweep the Wolverines in the season-series. Michigan took offense to all of it.
“Of course we were motivated by it,” freshman center Hunter Dickinson said. “But I think the players here last year and coach Howard were probably the most motivated from watching that video.
“I think it was just the Michael Jordan approach, any little thing that can get you extra motivated helps. That was something that definitely got everybody really prepared for this game and motivated.”
Added Brooks: “Yeah, we showed them a couple videos that rubbed us the wrong way and that we wanted to change the tides, so that’s why we did that.”
Despite this being their first taste of the rivalry, Brown and Dickinson were involved in a majority of the trash talk and strife — Brown by choice and Dickinson by virtue of his position. At one point, the referees had to step in and tell Brown to tone down the back-and-forth he was having with a Buckeye.
Meanwhile, the usually even-keeled, mild-mannered Dickinson threw down a monstrous two-handed dunk in traffic with a little more aggression than usual, driving the Michigan bench to near-hysteria.
“I could tell that they didn’t like us, and we sure didn’t like them either,” Dickinson said. “You could see that it was a really competitive game and I think there’s definitely something to be said for an Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. It’s definitely one of the best in the country.”
Whether it was from newcomers to the rivalry or veterans well-conditioned to the rough-and-tumble nature of it, the Wolverines brought a bit more intensity over the Michigan-Ohio border. And it paid off in a big way.
“Gonna enjoy the bus ride home with the victory,” Howard said. “Because I’ve been on the other side before when you’ve lost a game and you had to have a bus ride back home. It’s not a good feeling.”
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