With about six minutes left in Michigan’s 73-64 win over Ohio State on Sunday, Michigan was staring down a furious Buckeye run. Ohio State had come back from eight points down to take a one-point lead after a media timeout.
But after two points from senior DeShawn Sims, the crowd was getting into it. Even those not in the student section rose to their feet chanting, “Let’s go blue!”
If this game had gone like every other close game for Michigan this year, the Wolverines would have turned the ball over, missed an urgent 3-pointer, or committed an offensive foul.
But this game, junior Manny Harris took the ball, created space for himself near the 3-point line, and nailed a long two, sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy.
It was clear the Wolverines weren’t going to let this game end up like the other disappointments this season.
Michigan held a very slim lead throughout the first half that ballooned to five at one point, but Ohio State kept it close, going up by one with a minute left before Michigan scored to take a 34-32 lead into halftime.
The teams played nearly identically for the first half — 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.
But the second half was a different story. Michigan shot 65 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point territory while the Buckeyes managed 28 percent and 26 percent, respectively. And while Ohio State beat Michigan on the glass 37-31, Michigan shot 12 free throws, while the Buckeyes shot only five.
“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.”
That’s why this game was so much different from what fans had become used to seeing so far this season. Instead of giving the game away by missing shots and committing costly fouls, Michigan closed it out in superb fashion, counting on their two stars when they needed them most.
After a mediocre game at Indiana, Harris exploded for a vintage Manny stat line: 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists.
“I was just comfortable out there,” Harris said. “I was trying to make plays, and let everything come to me.”
But while Harris was spectacular in closing out the game, it was mostly due to Sims’ ability to finish inside that the team’s shooting percentage skyrocketed in the second half.
The senior forward notched 18 points in the second half alone and went 13-18 from the field for the game.
“My team gave me the ball where I can score,” Sims said. “I fed off a lot of penetration, I ran the floor, I did a lot of things that made me score in that aspect.”
While the Wolverines certainly relied heavily on Harris and Sims, the other players weren’t exactly standing around.
Sophomore Stu Douglass made two big 3-pointers in the first half.
Freshman Darius Morris came up with a huge fade-away jumper in the lane with a degree of difficulty of around 100 that put Michigan up by eight early in the second half.
Perhaps most surprising, freshman Matt Vogrich came off the bench and scored on two separate putbacks in the paint, also notching a block.
There’s no doubt about it — something about this game was different. Even though Ohio State was without its star Evan Turner, the Wolverines still beat the No. 15-ranked Buckeyes relatively soundly. Of course, there was some extra motivation.
“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.”