COLUMBUS — Michigan was 20 minutes away from a one-month stint in the Big Ten’s catbird seat.
The Wolverines led Ohio State by 20 on Monday, muting an already-hushed Value City Arena. After a 14-point thrashing of Indiana two days prior, Michigan had reason to feel good about itself.
Maybe the back-slapping commenced too early.
During the next 12 minutes, the Buckeyes surged ahead by five points with a 31-6 run (sound familiar?). Michigan made just 2 of 18 field goal attempts during the ghastly stretch. A team that was converting almost 60 percent of its shots during the first half suddenly plunged to arctic levels.
Ultimately, the night would end with a disastrous 71-62 loss for the Wolverines. After leading 43-23 with 1 minute, 16 seconds left in the first half, the Buckeyes outscored Michigan 48-19 to end the game.
“As good as the first 18 minutes were, it was equally as bad in the second half,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “There wasn’t any complacency. They came at us, and we did not respond.”
Michigan (7-2, 1-1 Big Ten) will have all week to stew — UM hosts UCLA on Saturday — about what occurred during the final 22 minutes. The most glaring statistic was missing 26 of its final 31 field-goal attempts. In the second half, Michigan was 5-of-29 from the field, 1-of-12 from 3-point range, and Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Charles Matthews, and Duncan Robinson were a combined 1-of-20 shooting.
“We couldn’t make a basket, we couldn’t make a really great play during that time,” Beilein said. “They switched every ball-screen the whole second half, and we hadn’t seen that yet this year. That spooked us. We didn't execute very well against it at all. We were not efficient at all in the second half.”
For the previous 58 minutes, it was the complete opposite. Michigan shot 47 percent in a 69-55 win Saturday against Indiana and made 17 of its first 28 attempts in this one. Eight different UM players scored in the first half.
The box score read like an anomaly. Michigan had 15 points off turnovers compared to OSU’s five, the Wolverines had five more offensive rebounds, and outscored Ohio State 16-4 on second-chance points.
The closing minutes were just as bizarre. Ohio State (7-3, 2-0 Big Ten) had no field goals in the final 3:38, but still ended with a 15-2 run thanks to Michigan making 1 of its final 11.
“I haven’t heard the Schott that loud,” Ohio State senior guard Kam Williams said.
Wagner paced Michigan with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson each scored 11 points.
This marked Michigan’s 10th game in 24 days, including a week spent 4,454 miles away in Maui. The December conference games also required a two-day turnaround. But the Wolverines weren’t searching for excuses in the aftermath of one of the worst blown leads in program history.
“Everyone’s in the same boat,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I don’t think fatigue played a part. I just don’t think we had the energy we had in the beginning of the game when we went up by 20. We have to teach the other guys to have that sense of urgency throughout the game, no matter what. When things aren't going your way and you aren't making shots, you still have to have a sense of urgency on defense.”
Despite all the ominous proceedings in the second half, Michigan held a four-point lead with under five minutes to play. In the final act of their 40-minute tableau, the Wolverines opted for a sequel, foundering once more and leaving Columbus with a stinging defeat.
“It’s not about the 13-point [halftime] lead — we got back ahead by four,” Beilein said. “We didn't get a stop, and then we didn’t make a shot after that.”
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