Michigan bucks the Buckeyes

No. 15 Wolverines hold off Buckeyes 70-60 in Columbus

Michigan's Caris LeVert, right, drives the lane as Ohio State's Sam Thompson defends.
Michigan's Caris LeVert, right, drives the lane as Ohio State's Sam Thompson defends.

COLUMBUS — This time, Michigan finished the comeback — and polished off a decade-old streak.

The 15th-ranked Wolverines wiped out a double-digit deficit to shove aside Ohio State 70-60 on Tuesday, snaring their first victory in Columbus since 2003 before a raucous sold-out Schottenstein Center.

Unlike last year’s rivalry game in Columbus, when the visitors could not overcome the Buckeyes’ blistering start, Michigan (18-6, 10-2 Big Ten) answered with one rally after another to vault alone back atop the Big Ten standings.

In a game between two teams passing in the night — No. 22 OSU the winners of three straight games, Michigan the losers of two of its last three — Nik Stauskas scored 15 points, Derrick Walton, Jr., added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and UM rerouted course.

The Wolverines were more physical, outrebounding Ohio State 39-27. More important, they were more clutch, overcoming a 10-point first-half deficit and pulling away late.

Depending on your allegiance, one late three-possession sequence captured the euphoria and the heartache. Glenn Robinson III hit a 3-pointer to push Michigan ahead 59-52 with 2:52 left, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft airballed a deep but open shot, and OSU fouled Walton on a 3-point attempt with seconds left on the shot clock. Walton made all three free throws.

LaQuinton Ross led OSU (19-6, 6-6) with a game-high 24 points.

"It felt like were getting ready to play a Final Four game here, it was so loud," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I don’t think you ever get used to the environments in this league. But our guys settled down."

Ohio State, meanwhile, wore throwback gray jerseys for a throwback performance, evoking the days when the peach buckets did not yet have openings. The Buckeyes made 3 of 20 shots from beyond the arc as their January shooting woes returned in force.

It also didn’t help that Michigan enjoyed a ticker-tape of second-chance points, with the Buckeyes allowing 14 offensive rebounds.

"We weren't the tougher basketball team down the stretch, and that hurts," Craft said. "We just didn’t have it."

Added Ross: "At the end of the day, they wanted it more."

For Ohio State, it was a sour finish to a night that began with a rare excitable February scene, with the crowd of 18,809 including the Wolverines’ one-time top football recruit. Five-star Kentucky running back Damien Harris — ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 5 overall prospect in the Class of 2015 — decommitted from Michigan last month, and made Ohio State his first visit in a reopened courtship Tuesday night. Harris and OSU coach Urban Meyer emerged from the tunnel leading to the court to loud cheers beforehand, then watched together as the Buckeyes fumbled the regular-season football/​basketball sweep of their rivals.

Save for the late twist, the night played out as a small-scale version of UM’s last visit to Columbus, when the Buckeyes raced to a 28-9 lead before holding on for a 56-53 win.

OSU took early control. Ross hit his first five shots and the Buckeyes ran and ran, with Craft — a former quarterback at Liberty-Benton — launching on-the-mark pass from just inside halfcourt to Sam Thompson for a rafter-rattling alley-oop. OSU led 19-10 and built the lead to double digits late in the half.

Like last year, though, a Michigan team that starts four freshmen or sophomores did not fold. Stauskas brushed aside his no-shows in UM’s two losses at Indiana at Iowa, and his teammates followed. The Wolverines pulled within four points at halftime and went ahead 44-43 on a pair of Stauskas foul shots with 10:56 remaining in the second half.

They did not trail again, finally chasing fans to the exits with the 13-2 run that put Michigan ahead 64-52.

Michigan moved a half game atop Michigan State in the conference standings. It closes with four of its final six games at home, including Sunday’s visit from No. 21 Wisconsin. The Wolverines host No. 9 Michigan State on Feb. 23 in their season’s last meeting with a ranked opponent.

"I don't know if we expected this this year," Beilein said. "It's great to be at the top of the conference, but we've still got some tough days to go."

The Buckeyes, too, have left behind the meat of their schedule, with a season-ending visit from the Spartans their only remaining game against a ranked team. OSU next plays Saturday at Illinois.

Zak Irvin added 10 points for Michigan, which shot 41.5 percent from the field. Lenzelle Smith had 13 points for OSU. The Buckeyes shot 44.2 percent overall.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.