On Sunday, on a day when they honored their seniors, in a
less-than-perfect season, the Wolverines played a less-than-perfect
game, lacking fire after their emotional loss to Michigan State on
Tuesday.

But the Wolverines did do what mattered: Keep their NCAA
Tournament hopes on life support.

Michigan made the runs and hit the free throws it needed down
the stretch to defeat Ohio State 75-64 yesterday in its final
regular-season home game.

After falling behind 9-2 early, the Wolverines (7-7 Big Ten,
16-9 overall) outscored the Buckeyes (5-9, 13-14) 30-13 over the
next 13 minutes by shooting the ball well, pulling down offensive
rebounds and forcing a barrage of turnovers. While Michigan had
trouble early against Ohio State’s matchup zone, Abram hit a
3-pointer and drove inside twice to get the offense going. The
Wolverines then scored five buckets off Buckeye turnovers to amass
its lead.

In a game where Michigan looked a little lethargic following its
emotionally draining loss to Michigan State on Tuesday, freshman
forward Brent Petway provided the spark it needed to hold off the
Buckeyes with 12 points, seven offensive rebounds and three blocks
in 24 minutes.

“I think we’ve seen Brent do a lot of things, at
times in a spectacular fashion,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
said. “I thought the difference was that he was very active
and lively. He stood out because we didn’t stand out as a
group.”

While known for his spectacular dunks, height-defying blocks and
good defense, Petway shined on the offensive end without dunking
the ball once. He instead used his leaping ability to score four
field goals off of offensive rebounds.

“On offense, my teammates found me in easy situations
where I can get to the basket,” Petway said. “(Amaker)
wants me to be the best offensive rebounder on the team, so
that’s what I focus on.”

Michigan couldn’t put the contest out of reach until late
in the second half as Ohio State got within striking distance
twice. Guard Tony Stockman started off the second half with a
3-pointer to cut the lead to six. But freshman center Courtney Sims
finished off an alley-oop from Daniel Horton and scored on the
following possession. Abram then hit back-to-back 3-pointers to
extend the Michigan lead to 12. The sophomore finished with a
team-high 20 points.

“I was just out there playing,” Abram said. “I
tried to just get in the open spots in the zone and just take my
shots.”

Stockman then cut the lead to seven by nailing another 3-pointer
with a little over nine minutes remaining. But Ohio State
didn’t get any closer. Michigan scored six unanswered points,
including four made free throws from Horton and Abram. The
Wolverines had a rare sparkling performance from the charity
stripe, going 17-for-19.

Michigan was shooting just 68 percent before yesterday’s
game.

“I thought that became somewhat of a contagious thing for
us and a good one,” Amaker said.

But Ohio State kept its deficit around ten for most of the
second half. Michigan gave up the ball 16 times, which has been a
recurring problem in many of Michigan’s losses this
season.

“We are concerned,” Amaker said. “We
weren’t sharp with the ball at all. I thought we were very
loose with it. We’ve been loose a lot this year with
it.”

The Wolverines also had problems with Ohio State’s post
tandem of Terence Dials and Velimir Radinovic. Those two
consistently found openings near the basket and pulled down six of
the Buckeyes’ 13 offensive rebounds.

“We’re trying to see if we can keep the ball from
entering into the post so easily,” Amaker said. “We
didn’t do that very well. I thought their game plan was
outstanding and they obviously put a lot of pressure on
us.”

Michigan will look to fight past those problems when it goes on
the road this week to take on Indiana and Northwestern to complete
its regular-season schedule.

The general consensus seems to be that the Wolverines must win
out and then make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament in order to
receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

If Michigan does not make a run, it will likely host a
first-round National Invitational Tournament game at Crisler Arena.
Though the Wolverines want to believe that they have played their
final home game of the season.

“Hopefully (this was) my last home game,” senior
Bernard Robinson said.

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