Admittedly underwhelming defensively against the Illini, the Wolverines picked up their intensity and communication early against the Buckeyes, tipping balls and forcing steals on their way to shell shocking Ohio State with a 15-2 run to start the game.
Oh, and the early onslaught from three-point land certainly helped too. Michigan made their first three attempts from deep and converted 8-of-13 overall in the first 20 minutes of action.
“As a team we came out firing today,” Nik Stauskas said afterward. “That’s what we need to do come out with quick starts like that. Obviously we got up early and made a run to start the game and we shot pretty well.”
Hot start for Michigan offensively aside, Ohio State was able to weather the storm, cutting the Wolverines’ lead to just four, 41-37, heading into the break.
Ohio State’s surge came at the hands of twelve Michigan turnovers, above the Wolverines’ season average of just over nine turnovers per game.
“I think the big changes were the points off turnovers,” Michigan coach John Beilein said afterward. “As you know, any time Aaron (Craft) is out there or any of your other players, they had seven steals in the first half and we had seven turnovers.
“Steals are usually run-outs. They're not a time that you walk and you take the ball back. You take the ball out of bounds and all of a sudden you set your defense. The seven steals probably led to -- I think they had 22 points or something at halftime off -- no, 13 points in turnovers.
“And in the second half they got three or four more. We did have some shots that didn't drop, but I was happy with our defense. We played exceptionally well in those first -- the start of the game. That couldn't last.”
And it didn’t last.
Ohio State’s Sam Thompson was key for the Buckeyes in the second half leading the charge with a key block on Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III at the rim and was on the receiving end of an alley-oop that gave Ohio State their first lead of the game at 61-60.
Thompson finished the afternoon with 11-points in 24 minutes of game action.
But Michigan found a way to stay in the game and fight, as they have in several throughout this season.
Nik Stauskas once again paced Michigan’s scoring attack finishing with 18-points, shooting 50-percent from the field. Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III also notched double figures for the Wolverines for the second game in a row, LeVert scoring 17, Robinson III 11.
Stauskas reverse lay-in with the kiss off the glass might get the most replays in the post game highlights but LeVert’s offensive rebound with seconds left in the game proved key.
With the ball at the top of the key, shot clock and game clock ticking away, Stauskas fired up a three that came off short before LeVert flew in above everyone, forcing Ohio State to foul down 71-69.
“I'm actually not supposed to offensive rebound at all,” LeVert said afterward. “I'm supposed to just get back on the play. Coach Beilein just told me about that.
“But I noticed the whole game they weren't really boxing me out because I'm supposed to be going back, so I noticed when he shot it, it came off a little short, so I knew I could go get the rebound.”
Albrecht missed his second free throw as Aaron Craft collected it going the other way in a hurry before losing his handle of the basketball on his way up for the tying shot, securing Michigan’s 72-69 victory.
“I feel so fortunate right now,” Beilein said. “You look at so many of our games down the stretch here, they've ended just like this and the ball keeps bouncing our way.
“You only can have that type of luck if you have guys like these guys sitting next to me. They make enough smart plays to keep you in the game, and some games the ball will just bounce your way.
“Really proud of how these two guys and everybody else had big roles in this wins, and now we move forward and try to win it all tomorrow.”