ANN ARBOR — A first-in-a-lifetime brush between top-10 rivals lived up to its billing Tuesday night as third-ranked Michigan took down Ohio State 76-74 in overtime.
Trey Burke put Michigan ahead with a 3-pointer on the first possession of overtime and did his part in the final seconds to ensure it stayed that way.
After Aaron Craft picked Burke to give the Buckeyes the ball trailing 75-74 with 20 seconds left, Michigan’s star sophomore evened the score. Craft drove past Burke from the top of the key, only to have Burke block his short-range jumper from behind.
"I just tried to swipe the ball without fouling," Burke said. "It was a big possession."
Michigan (21-2, 8-2 Big Ten), which lost at OSU earlier this season, then made one of two free throws with seven seconds left before a length-of-the-floor drive by Craft ended with a a rejection by Hardaway at the basket. Craft said he thought he was fouled and Hardaway later expressed surprise at the no-call.
"I just watched it," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. "It is what it is."
An overtime that featured all of six points did little justice to a classic first 40 minutes.
A hail of five straight 3-pointers by Tim Hardaway Jr., who finished with a game-high 23 points, brought Michigan back from an eight-point deficit midway through the second half before the teams exchanged a series of late scores. Michigan and No. 10 OSU (17-5, 7-3) tied the game at three different junctures over the last three minutes, with OSU junior Lenzelle Smith’s game-tying 20-footer with 29 seconds left the final blow of regulation before Burke missed an isolation 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
"It was a great basketball game," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I can't tell you how much I respect how well Ohio plays defense they just really guard you. Craft is like none other than I've ever seen. I felt like we had to earn every basket today. Unfortunately, our defense was not as good throughout most of the game. ... Somehow, we gutted it out and got the W thanks to a lot of tough-minded young men."
The first top-10 game in rivalry history lent the game a calendar-defying feel.
Hundreds of students snaked around Michigan Stadium nearly two hours beforehand, waiting in the snow to be among the first to stake their positions indoors. And by 8:45 p.m. — about 25 minutes before tip-off — the arena was filled shoulder to shoulder with maize-attired fans prepared to set off on a two-hour assault of noise.
On a downsized scale, the start resembled the teams’ previous meeting, when the host Buckeyes sprinted to a 20-point first-half lead. Michigan opened an 18-8 behind Burke and a freshmen class determined to make up for past big-game no shows.
Nik Stauskas, who was held scoreless in Columbus, and Glenn Robinson III hit back-to-back 3-pointers while Mitch McGary added four points inside during a run of five straight scores.
But like Michigan did in their 56-53 loss at OSU, the Buckeyes acclimated to the surroundings and regained their footing. Ohio State closed the half on a 23-12 run fueled by a rare display of balance. DeShaun Thomas and reserve LaQuinton Ross each had seven points to lead eight OSU scorers in the first half.
Ohio State’s upset hopes gained a further burst of life in the second half, first on a 3-pointer by Craft from four feet beyond the arc as the shot-clock expired and then as the Buckeyes pushed ahead 48-40. But Hardaway brought Michigan back with one big shot after another.
Hardaway, who began the night with 20 3-pointers for the season, answered with four straight 3s to put UM ahead 55-54 — the junior’s hand growing so hot that Wolverines coach John Beilein called a timeout to set up the last one from the top of the arc. His fifth straight one later gave UM a 62-60 lead.
"I don't recall that happening too many times," Beilein said. "We couldn't dial up plays fast enough."
The finish overshadowed yet another another solid defensive effort by Craft. Among Tuesday’s biggest storylines was the offense of Michigan’s guards against the defense of Ohio State’s, with Burke against Craft the headliner.
Craft represented Burke’s most exhausting adversary. In four previous run-ins with Craft, a former AAU teammate, Burke averaged 12.5 points on 32.7 percent shooting (16 of 49) and 5 turnovers.
Saturday, Burke had only eight points heading into the final minutes but finished with 16 points.
Thomas led OSU with 17 points while Ross and Craft respectively added 16 and 11.
Asked what it takes to win on the road in the Big Ten, Matta said, "Obviously, we didn't quite have enough tonight, but it takes an effort like that. You have to give Michigan credit. It took a heck of an effort on their part. ... This league is about getting knocked down and getting back up again."
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.