Before its 73-64 win over Ohio State on Sunday, the Wolverines’ winter break had given them very little to relax about.

The Wolverines kicked off the break with a heartbreaking loss in Lawrence against top-ranked Kansas, thanks mostly to incredibly poor shooting — 18 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

The team came back to Crisler for a brief reprieve against Coppin State. And while the Golden Lions didn’t exactly skyrocket Michigan’s RPI, sophomore Stu Douglass got back on track, shooting 60 percent from downtown and finishing with 20 points.

Then the Big Ten season started, with what seemed like an exceedingly winnable game against an Indiana team that was without its leading scorer, Maurice Creek. And the Wolverines probably could have pulled it out, had they not forgotten their two superstars in Ann Arbor.

Junior Manny Harris and senior DeShawn Sims had very pedestrian 13- and 12-point games, respectively.

Yes, Michigan was heading into its first conference home game, against the Buckeyes, in a bit of a funk. But from the very beginning of the game, something seemed different.

Ohio State scored on their first possession after winning the jump, but Harris came right back down the court and sank a contested 3-pointer to answer immediately.

And while that was just the first two possessions of the game, it set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Michigan had an answer for everything Ohio State threw at it, and for each answer, the Wolverines threw a little something of their own.

In the first half, the two teams played each other to a tee, finishing with nearly identical statistics — both teams shot about 50 percent from the field and about 40 percent from beyond the arc. Michigan had 14 rebounds, Ohio State 15. They even both attempted just three free throws.

“Our defense today, holding them to those percentages,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Just doing a better job on (Ohio State junior) David (Lighty) was huge. They’ve got some very innovative ways of getting them jumpshots.”

And after halftime, Harris and Sims made their superstar status clear to the Buckeyes.

Michigan’s two best players came alive in the second half, combining for 31 points while shooting 13-17 from the floor. Their second half performance allowed Michigan to hold off Ohio State for the win.

“I was just comfortable out there,” Harris said. “I was trying to make plays, and let everything come to me.”
Throughout this season, Michigan has failed to score or get a stop in nearly every critical moment. On Sunday, the team came through.

There was freshman Darius Morris’ beautiful fadeaway jumper in the lane to put the Wolverines up eight midway through the second half.

And then there was the energy freshman Matt Vogrich brought off the bench, getting two putbacks in the paint and electrifying the Crisler crowd with an uncharacteristic block from behind.

This season, Michigan has played well under expectations. The problem has gone beyond poor shooting, beyond poor defense — it is just bad chemistry. And while a win at home against an Evan Turner-less Ohio State is not a season-changing event, it is a step in the right direction.

“Anytime you beat Ohio State at Michigan, especially after last year when (former Ohio State center B.J.) Mullens saying they were going to beat us four years in a row,” Novak said. “That’s not going to happen. It just feels good getting that win, it was fun.”

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