During halftime of yesterday’s basketball game between Michigan and Ohio State, a group of Buckeye fans held up a sign that read “1,548 days” – the length of time since the Michigan football team’s last win in the bitter rivalry.
But after yesterday it’s been less than 24 hours since Michigan topped Ohio State in basketball.
In front of a sold-out Crisler Arena crowd, Michigan defeated the Buckeyes, 80-70. The Wolverines snapped a seven-game losing streak against their archrival and stretched their winning streak to three.
“We told our guys this is the best seven-win team I’ve ever seen,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “I think it’s just clicking. I thought they had great confidence today.”
Led by the duo of sophomore DeShawn Sims (22 points) and freshman Manny Harris (27), the Wolverines put together 40 minutes of fundamentally sound basketball, something they’ve struggled to do this season.
The scoring droughts and turnovers that have plagued Michigan in previous games didn’t come to haunt the Wolverines yesterday.
Instead, key shots allowed the Wolverines (4-9 Big Ten, 8-17 overall) to go into the half tied, even though the Buckeyes shot 68 percent from the floor in the first half.
Sims, who was one point shy of a career high, led the team with four 3-pointers, none bigger than the one he sunk with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game.
Following a big three-point play by the Buckeyes’ Evan Turner that cut the Wolverines’ lead to three, Sims took a deep 3-pointer just in front of the Michigan bench.
The bucket extended the Wolverines’ lead to 69-63 and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“That kind of typified, ‘Damn, this is their day today,’ ” Matta said.
But Michigan’s offensive firepower came mostly from Harris. In the Wolverines’ loss in Columbus Feb. 5, the Detroit native played tentatively, looking to pass rather than drive to the basket. As a result, he notched just seven points.
But yesterday afternoon, Harris dipped and drove past defenders, creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates. He collected three assists and a career-high 27 points.
Harris’s efforts, coupled with another solid performance from the bench, led to the highest-profile win of the new John Beilein era.
It comes at a perfect time for Michigan, which is going into the weakest part of its conference schedule (Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State) before ending the season against Purdue, the Big Ten’s top team.
“I think guys are starting to realize that we can play anybody and play at a different level,” senior Ron Coleman said. “With that mindset going into the end of the season, it’s great.”
The win was the first time Coleman has beaten the Buckeyes in his four years with the team. While he didn’t notch any points, Coleman did pick up a rebound and three assists in 15 minutes of play.
“(The game) meant more,” Coleman said. “It has been a lot of tough games and a lot of tough losses to them here and at their place, and now we finally pulled it off and it felt great.”