Michigan was admittedly flat and uninspired in a 63-49 loss to Indiana last Wednesday.
The prescription for a healthy return from that game arrived in Ann Arbor Saturday in the form of Ohio State (5-7 Big Ten, 12-11 overall).
Michigan (8-3, 15-9) took a 3-2 lead in the game’s early stages and never relinquished the advantage, cruising to a 70-54 rout of the Buckeyes, the Wolverines 12th-straight win at Crisler Arena. That streak is the longest home winning streak for Michigan since a 12-game streak spanning the end of the 1963 and beginning of the 1964 season.
“It was a game that we needed to stay in contention down the stretch of the Big Ten conference season,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “It was quite different for us (to have a big lead), and it was a nice feeling.”
“It’s a good victory for us, we showed we were ready to play,” Michigan forward Bernard Robinson said. “We’ve just got to go out and get a victory on the road.”
The blowout victory came despite the fact that Robinson was never able to get offensively involved in the game due to foul trouble. The junior fouled out after playing just 18 minutes, scoring no points, his worst offensive performance since coming to Michigan.
But the Wolverines were able to overcome, thanks mainly to the three-pronged attack of forward LaVell Blanchard and guards Daniel Horton and Lester Abram.
Abram scored 10 of his 17 points in the first four minutes of the game, with Horton and Blanchard taking over from there, scoring 21 and 19, respectively.
“Lester Abram carried them in the first few minutes of the half,” Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien said. “Then Horton was their guy at the end of the half, and LaVell Blanchard hit some big shots in the second half – that is three different guys who carried them at different spots of the game.”
Just like in Michigan’s 61-50 win at Ohio State on Jan. 15, the Wolverines stifled the Buckeyes’ offense all day long. The inspired play on the defensive end once again started with Michigan’s ability to put the clamps on guard Brent Darby.
The Detroit native entered Saturday’s game sporting an 18.4 points per game average, but was held to 12 points, the same total that he struggled to in Michigan’s first win over the Buckeyes.
But unlike the first game between the two teams, when Robinson’s man-to-man defense against Darby was the key to shutting the point guard down, the Wolverines were successful on Saturday despite Robinson’s foul trouble, thanks to several effective defensive looks.
“Defense was the key today, even though we had one of our better players (in foul trouble),” Michigan forward Chuck Bailey said. “We still managed to shut (Darby) down.”
Bailey himself was instrumental off the bench for the Wolverines, as the sophomore finished with nine points and four rebounds in just eight minutes of action.
As a whole, the Wolverines’ bench chipped in with 13 rebounds and 55 combined minutes – numbers that Michigan will take in its never ending search for more depth.
“The team helped me out a lot, it was definitely a team effort today,” Robinson said.
The Buckeyes hung with Michigan for much of the first half, using a 9-2 run to pull within 18-17 with just under eight minutes left.
But that was as close as it would get, as the Wolverines finished the half with a 20-7 spurt of their own to open a 38-24 lead at the break. Ohio State would get no closer than a dozen points in the second half.
“We were embarrassed (against Indiana),” Horton said. “We wanted to come back here and show everyone that we’re still around, and send a message to the rest of the league.”