INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan, for the second year in a row, stared down a chance to do something it had never done. No team, in the history of the program, has played in a Big Ten Tournament title game. For a program steeped in mediocrity, Saturday was an opportunity for the Wolverines to put their name down in history.

They gave it their best shot, but it hit the rim and bounced out.

Michigan (21-11 overall, 10-8 Big Ten) couldn’t buy a bucket, bowing out of the tournament in the semifinals for the second straight year, losing, 66-60, to Ohio State (21-11, 11-7).

Michigan’s offense played directly into its identity: shoot, rebound, shoot again. It was an offense reminiscent of the beginning of the season, when junior forward Hailey Brown sometimes struggled, her confidence gone, and when freshman guard Maddie Nolan barely played.

Teams then didn’t respect the Wolverines’ outside threat and packed the paint. The Buckeyes did exactly that in the teams’ first matchup in January. Saturday, Ohio State did the same. Brown and Nolan, riding hot hands coming into the game, found themselves with plenty of opportunities to score.

But their shots hit the rim — once, twice — and bounced out. Over and over and over again.

“I had the confidence to keep on shooting,” Brown said. “My teammates were putting me in good positions and drawing up plays to get those shots. … All my shots felt really good, they all felt on frame, I thought they were all going in.”

Brown ended the day 3-for-11 from beyond the arc.

Michigan’s offense was on life support, dragged along by sophomore forward Naz Hillmon — the rebound part of the shoot, rebound, shoot again. She finished with 10 offensive rebounds and 16 total, leading to her 22 points on the day. Even the unanimous all-Big Ten player, though, watched her shots bounce out, shooting 47.6 percent compared to her season average 57.2.

“(The double team is) definitely difficult, just because any two-on-one, that’s tough to deal with,” Hillmon said. “But in the past couple of games, especially in the end of the regular Big Ten season, we faced that and we really tried to work on that.”

Those adjustments required teammates to make shots, shots that didn’t bounce out.

But, like the beginning of the Big Ten season, Michigan’s defense kept it in it. Ohio State shot equally poorly through the first quarter and the Wolverines settled in for a physical matchup of who could rebound better. A matchup they can beat almost every team at. Then Buckeyes’ guard Janai Crooms entered the game.

“They are balanced and they have seven players that are pretty much averaging the same, between 14 and 10 points,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “And I thought that was really the difference when they brought in Crooms in the first half. I thought she did a great job for them.”

Two hours later, Michigan players were talking about her shiftiness in the locker room. She sparked a nine-point run and the Wolverines couldn’t conjure an answer of their own; Brown’s shots kept rimming out, Dilk’s drives were walled off, Hillmon suffered through double teams.

Late in the third quarter, the Wolverines finally found their mojo: Five quick points followed by a couple 3-pointers drew them even with 7:18 left in the game. The shots were falling, the bench was feeling it, momentum was theirs.

Then Ohio State called a timeout.

Afterwards, Hillmon watched her shot travel across the rim and into the hands of Dorka Juhasz.

Time and time again during the fourth quarter, Hillmon shook her head, lips drawn into a frown after another layup attempt bounced twice off the rim and into the waiting arms of a Buckeye.

Ohio State, meanwhile, regained its composure. It made plays, it hit free throws — nothing but net.

The game was over. History would have to wait.

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