Ohio state 72 — Michigan 62
CHICAGO – Seniors Dion Harris and Courtney Sims wanted to make some noise in this year’s Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Unfortunately, it was a thud.
In what turned out to be their final conference tournament game, Harris and Sims came out flat and contributed little in Michigan’s 72-62 loss to No. 1 Ohio State.
The two players combined to shoot 3-for-22 and scored just 16 points despite being the Wolverines’ top two scorers all year.
“I think I probably didn’t get the comfortable, open shots today that I’ve gotten against (Ohio State),” Harris said. “And then I missed some. They did a great job defensively and plugging into the driving lanes, especially with me.”
Harris’s struggles were long and painful over the course of the game, but Sims’s bad day was made worse early in the second half.
With Michigan trailing 36-31, Sims had a chance to pull his team closer with an easy layup. But on back-to-back attempts, Buckeye center Greg Oden embarrassingly blocked Sims from behind, arousing a roar from the United Center crowd.
Ohio State’s Mike Conley, Jr. picked up the loose ball and turned those blocks into two points on the other end of the floor.
“Yeah, (Oden’s) a load down there,” senior Brent Petway said. “He’s a great player. He has his size and he knows how to use it. . You’ve just got to give him credit. He knows how to play the game and use his size.”
Actually showing up: During Friday’s second-round loss, Michigan fans witnessed flashes of the past and the future.
In his final Big Ten game, fifth-year senior Lester Abram briefly showed the brilliance he displayed in his three years of eligibility as a Wolverine.
Making the shots that failed to fall most of the season, Abram scored 13 points (nine from beyond the arc) and added four rebounds and four assists against zero turnovers.
“I was just taking more time on my shot, not rushing it,” Abram said. “I was already used to the court from playing on it (on Thursday), so that helped a little bit. I was getting open shots and knocking them down. It wasn’t anything special.”
Abram had been criticized for the drop in the quality of his play this year. Prior to the season, the Pontiac native had averaged 10.6, 13.1 and 10.1 points per game in three previous seasons. This year he averaged 8.9.
But Abram wasn’t the only player to avenge his critics. Freshman DeShawn Sims also had a good performance despite a season of mediocrity.
Sims scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in eight minutes of play. Along with his eight points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes against Minnesota on Thursday, Sims had the best two-game stretch of his young college career.
“I stopped pressing so much, trying to let the game come to me,” Sims said. “I tried to get myself going by doing the little things like rebounding, playing defense and that gave me a boost in confidence.”
At least they won something: The Wolverines may not have won the war, but they dominated the battle of the boards against Ohio State.
Michigan outrebounded the Buckeyes by 22 (47-25) and notched 22 offensive rebounds to Ohio State’s six.
“When (the Wolverines are) shooting, those guys are just running and jumping, and it is a little bit of desperation,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “I’ve got to give Michigan some credit. They were relentless on the boards.”
No love: With a quick glance around the crowd, you could see a sea of orange, green, red and black. The colors that were noticeably missing were maize and blue.
The Michigan contingent was much smaller than its Big Ten counterparts and most of the crowd appeared to have an anti-Michigan bias.
On the United Center scoreboard, while fans were shown singing portions of their team’s fight song, “The Victors” was soundly booed.