Michigan students, equipped with tents, began lining up outside Crisler Center at 11 p.m. Monday night. More than 25 hours and one low-scoring overtime period later, they walked away happy campers.
On the possession after getting stripped by opposing point guard Aaron Craft, sophomore Trey Burke blocked Craft’s would-be go-ahead jumper with just nine seconds left. Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III hit one of his two free throws, and with less than three seconds to play, junior Tim Hardaway Jr. blocked a Craft layup to secure the 76-74 win for the No. 3 Michigan basketball team.
Controversy immediately ensued, as many, including Hardaway, thought Craft was fouled on the last play, which would’ve sent him to the line with a chance to send the game into double overtime.
“I thought Trey fouled him, and I thought the whistle was going to blow, and I just went for the ball,” Hardaway said. “I saw the ball in my face, so I just wrapped it up and probably got his arm or something like that, but it’s up to the refs to make that call, and they let it go.”
Burke opened overtime doing what he couldn’t do in the closing seconds of regulation. The point guard, who missed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end regulation, knocked one down in the opening 30 seconds of overtime, which proved to be the game-winning basket.
The hard-fought battle gave Michigan coach John Beilein a win on his 60th birthday and kept the Wolverines (8-2 Big Ten, 21-2 overall) squarely in the conference title hunt. By the time Beilein addressed the media, it was past midnight and his hectic birthday was over.
“Thank God the birthday’s over, but it was a good one,” Beilein said, laughing. “This added a few more years (to my age). … That’s why the birthday thing — it’s usually in a stressful situation.
“I’m not a big birthday guy, but this was a good present.”
The teams continually traded baskets in the game’s final minutes. With just more than a minute left, Burke found freshman forward Mitch McGary wide open on the baseline to give Michigan a 72-70 lead. Ohio State tied it up on the other end when Buckeye forward LaQuinton Ross collected an offensive rebound and found Lenzelle Smith Jr. open on the perimeter for a deep two-point bucket. Burke missed a 3-pointer as regulation expired to send the game into overtime.
Burke’s miss, so similar to his miss at the buzzer in Columbus that Craft told Burke in the final moments of regulation that he was having “déjà vu,” was drawn up for the Wolverine point guard to penetrate and at least try to draw a foul.
“We settled there a little bit, but if it goes in, it looks great,” Beilein said.
After taking a one-point lead into halftime, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes’ hot shooting from the first half didn’t skip a beat. Ohio State (17-5, 7-3) built an eight-point lead in the opening seven minutes of the second stanza.
But after a three-point play from freshman forward Glenn Robinson, Hardaway took over to keep Michigan in it, scoring 15 of the Wolverines’ next 19 points — all from five-consecutive 3-point makes. With Michigan down one, redshirt sophomore Jon Horford blocked an Ohio State layup, firing up the sold-out Crisler Center heading into the official timeout.
“There were some times where we could’ve quit,” Beilein said. “There’s some times where some other teams, going way back, they just turn around (and say), ‘This is just too much. I’m getting every shot blocked, they’re getting easy baskets … it’s not our day.’ We didn’t have that at all today, and that was huge.”
Hardaway’s fourth 3-pointer, moments after play resumed, gave the Wolverines a two-point advantage, but the Buckeyes went on another run to retake the lead. The Miami native, who Burke said was “definitely the player of the game,” finished with 23 points on 6-of-9 3-point shooting.
“Some of them were heat checks,” Hardaway said. “If the ball’s going in, the ball’s going in. I can’t do nothing about it.”
Added Beilein: “He was terrific. We couldn’t dial up plays (for him) fast enough.”
Four other Wolverines — Burke, Robinson, McGary and freshman guard Nik Stauskas — registered double-digit points. Bukre finished with 16 points and eight assists, despite being seemingly stifled by Craft all night.
“Those two, you’re watching two of the finest point guards in America play against each other,” Beilein said. “Craft is like none other I’ve ever seen. … That was a great battle and they have a lot of respect for each other, too.”
Craft finished with 11 points, while DeShaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 17 points.
McGary’s best half as a Wolverine wasn’t enough to stop Michigan from entering the locker room with just its second home halftime deficit of the year. The freshman scored a game-high 10 first-half points and pulled down five rebounds, while also recording two steals.
After Ohio State jumped out to a 4-1 lead, Michigan scored the game’s next 12 points and led by as many as 10 points, but after going 5:25 without a single field goal, the Buckeyes stormed back. With two minutes left in the period, they regained the lead, and after a Wolverine basket, the Buckeyes regained the one-point lead, 31-30, and took it into halftime.
Michigan connected on five 3-pointers in the first half but was unable to score a single point in transition. Ohio State shot 50 percent from the field, while its stifling defense blocked three shots and held Burke to just five points and two assists.
The Wolverines managed to outrebound the Buckeyes, despite getting just four minutes — all in the first half — from its regular post man, redshirt junior Jordan Morgan.