A reverse layup by Nik Stauskas with 2:08 remaining proved to be the winning basket as Michigan (25-7) defeated the never-say die Ohio State Buckeyes, 72-69, Saturday (Mar. 15) earning a spot in Sunday’s (Mar. 16) Big Ten title game.
The Wolverines will play in-state rival Michigan State (25-8), an 83-75 winner over Wisconsin in the other semifinal. Game time is set for 3:30 pm ET (CBS television).
Michigan will be searching for it’s first conference tournament crown since winning the inaugural event back in 1998. Ohio State (25-9) has won the tournament four times.
Both teams will definitely land a berth in the NCAA tournament, but the Wolverines still have an outside shot at a No. 1 seed if they win the conference title Sunday.
The Wolverines blasted out of the gate like a bunch of thoroughbreds, as Stauskas and Robinson each hit threes to open the scoring. Michigan was able to get its up-tempo game moving, and took a 32-16 lead.
But the Wolverines, who depend on hitting open threes, began missing some shots primarily because the Buckeyes stepped up their defense. Ohio State forced Michigan into turnovers and quickly went on a 21-9 run to cut Michigan’s lead to four.
After the Wolverines went on their second run to extend the lead to 56-44, here came the Buckeyes with a 13-2 explosion to lead 58-57.
Ohio State’s Aaron Kraft, who’s always been a thorn in the side of the Wolverines, had a chance to tie the score in the final six seconds, but his three-pointer was partially blocked by Glenn Robinson III who swept it out of danger.
LeVert plays on both ends
Stauskas, who was guarded at first by 6-7 forward Sam Thompson, still was able to get open much of the time. Kraft also took a shot at defending Stauskas, but the sophomore from Canada was still able to score a team-high 18 points on 50 percent shooting.
Caris LeVert, who grabbed a key offensive rebound in Michigan’s final possession, was active on both ends of the floor. He knocked down 17 points, had a total of eight rebounds and unfortunately committed four turnovers.
Robinson chipped in with 11 points, also shooting at a 50 percent pace.
The Buckeyes, who were lead by LaQuinton Ross’ 19 points and 18 rebounds, were called for 18 fouls due to their aggressive defense. Michigan, by shooting only 10-19 from the line, failed to take advantage.
Michigan won both meetings with Michigan State during the season. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans 80-75 in East Lansing and 79-70 in Ann Arbor.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer