What They're Saying About Michigan Basketball's Huge Win Over Ohio State
The No. 3-ranked Michigan Wolverines (16-1, 11-1 Big Ten) went into Columbus and beat No. 4 Ohio State, 92-87, in what is being considered "the game of the year" so far in college basketball.
Here is a look around the country at what they're saying about the Maize and Blue's big victory.
To say Sunday’s Michigan game at Ohio State lived up to its billing would be an understatement. While we haven’t seen every college basketball game this year, we’ve seen enough to know U-M’s 92-87 win in Columbus was at least one of the best games of the year in college basketball.
Both teams made contested shots in back and forth action that resembled a Final Four contest. The defense wasn’t bad, but the offense was better, the Wolverines making an amazing 10 of 13 triples in the first half yet leading by only two.
Bodies flew and players chirped, as they do in rivalry games …
And Michigan head coach Juwan Howard loved every minute of it.
“Because this is the Big Ten, baby!” Howard said, laughing and clapping into the camera during the postgame Zoom with reporters. “It’s a very, very physical conference.”
He likened it to a boxing match, and U-M was the one standing at the end.
He expected nothing less than the Buckeyes’ best, and he and his team got it. Though U-M’s vaunted defense allowed 87 points, OSU shooting 50 percent from the floor and 53.3 from long range, they made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to pull away.
On just about any other day, against any other opponent, the Buckeyes probably would have won. But not Sunday. Not against a group that, in just its third game back after a 23-day layoff, hung with its rival blow for blow in a battle of heavyweights before finally delivering the knockout punch in the last four minutes.
If anyone doubted whether these were two of the top four teams in the country going in, they shouldn’t anymore.
Michigan’s toughness amid adversity clearly put the Wolverines within clawing distance of a championship. Even if they drop two games in the reconfigured finish to the schedule — Iowa, at Indiana, Illinois, and a home-and-away with victory-challenged Michigan State — Illinois would need to sweep to match the Wolverines in the loss column.
That would mean four more road wins — at MSU, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines could almost certainly clinch a championship in Juwan Howard’s second season with a March 2 win at Crisler Center versus the Illini.
That’s too far down the road, Howard reminded.
“We have a tough schedule ahead, and we’re going to look at it one game at a time,” he insisted. “But for right now, we’re going to enjoy this victory.”
Like a beefeater does a 32-ounce steak.
This one featured the Buckeyes at their best. Their best just wasn’t good enough.
“Ohio State is a great team,” Howard stressed. They were 18-4 before this game, ranked fourth in the country. Great coach, and a very balanced team. They have outside shooting, inside scoring … they’re a very skillful group.”
Michigan keeps making very skillful groups come up short. That’s what championship seasons are all about, and the Wolverines remain full steam ahead.
We got a wonderful potential Final Four preview. Both these teams are obviously good enough to make a run to the final weekend. What Michigan has managed to do after a 23-day pause is almost jaw-dropping. A week ago the Wolverines outscored Wisconsin 40-20 in the second half, shook off any flakes of rust in the process and won on the road. Thursday brought a workmanlike, never-in-doubt home W over Rutgers. Sunday was the best yet. U-M opened with an absurd 10-of-13 first-half shooting performance from beyond the arc. It finished 11-of-23, providing flashbacks of some of John Beilein's best teams in the process.
Might this group be better than his 2013 or 2018 Final Four teams? At this point, that is on the table. Chris Holtmann told me you can see some of Howard's NBA influence in the way Michigan runs some of its offensive sets, and it's what makes this team well-rounded.
Michigan legend Juwan Howard has his team playing at the highest level in just his second season.
"I think what's so impressive about them is you can just tell they have really taken on his personality," Holtmann said. "Competitive, smart, tough-minded. I put this team on the same level, just about, as the really good Beilein teams and it's impressive to see him do this [in his second season]."
In two seasons' time, Howard has done what John Beilein only pulled off once in 11 years: win at Ohio State. This was the Wolverines' first win in Columbus in seven years and just their second since 2005. Michigan's now 11-1 in the Big Ten, its best start in league play since 1976-77. Juwan Howard was 4 years old then.
The Big Ten is obviously going to have at least one of its teams earn a No. 1 seed. That will mark the first time since 2015 (Wisconsin) that the league's been able to find the top line on Selection Sunday. Michigan is not yet a lock to be a No. 1 (games against No. 11 Iowa, No. 5 Illinois and the Big Ten Tournament all await), but it's as close as it could possibly be to lock status on Feb. 21.
"They're a complete team," Holtmann said. "That's why everyone's so high on them and rightfully so."
Isaiah Livers had never won a game in Columbus. Chaundee Brown had never even been there before.
But after watching a pregame video of Ohio State celebrating last year's win over its archrival — Michigan’s basketball drought in Columbus dated back to 2014 — Brown says he just had a feeling as he took the court prior to Sunday’s showdown at the Schottenstein Center.
“I told Isaiah in warm-ups, ‘I like these rims. I love these rims,’” laughed Brown, the Wolverines’ senior transfer from Wake Forest. “And then I hit my first shot (in the game) and I was like, ‘Yo, it’s gonna be a good one.’”
It was a good one for Michigan, all right. A great one for Big Ten hoops as well, as two of the best teams in the best conference in college basketball this season went toe-to-toe and put a show for more than two hours Sunday afternoon as the Wolverines held on for a 92-87 victory.
"They’re No. 4 in the country for a reason and I think we’re No. 3 in the country for a reason, too,” said Hunter Dickinson, Michigan’s freshman phenom who finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in another dominant performance Sunday. “Obviously, this game lived up to the hype.”
Last week, [Hunter Dickinson] was named conference Freshman of the Week for the sixth time this season. On Monday, he’ll earn the award for the seventh time. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be named Freshman of the Year.
For Ohio State, Sunday was a brutal introduction. Though only 6-foot-7, E.J. Liddell is one of the best big men in the league. He tried to check Dickinson and at times received help from some hard double-teams. Teammates Zed Key and Kyle Young also took a few turns trying to body up Dickinson. All were undersized and eventually overwhelmed.
Dickinson went through anything and everything put in front of him. In the decisive second half, he scored 16 of Michigan’s 47 points and grabbed three key offensive rebounds. He was dominant. The more Ohio State wore down, the more he was dialed up.
With just over four minutes remaining and the Buckeyes threatening, down only one, 73-72, Dickinson slipped into the lane, caught a Mike Smith bounce pass from underneath the basket, stopped, collected himself with the 6-8 Young draped on his back, pump-faked, dropped a reverse pivot, spun and dunked over Young and a late-arriving Liddell. The Michigan bench lost its collective mind as Dickinson ran back down the floor with fists clenched, yelling into the empty air.
“That’s what we expect him to do,” [Eli] Brooks said. “He’s proven it all year. We try to get him in his spots, so we can take advantage of him down low, because we feel like he can’t be stopped down there. He’s proven he can score against anybody.”
Juwan Howard stood on the word “Buckeyes” on the baseline of Value City Arena, pointed with his left hand at the small collection of Michigan fans in the stands and pounded his chest with his right. Over and over. This game was worth a little celebration.
The scoreboard overhead said Michigan 92, Ohio State 87. It was the best game of the 2020-21 college basketball season, a shot-making festival of frothy rivalry intensity that bobbed back and forth until the Wolverines pulled away (slightly) in the final minutes. There were 18 lead changes, and for the first 39 minutes, the largest lead was six points, neither team ever led by double digits. For a sport that sometimes fails to deliver a viewer-friendly product that resonates with casual fans, this was a gorgeous, close, dramatic showcase game.
It established not just the winner but both teams as viable national championship contenders. In a season that for weeks has looked like a Gonzaga-Baylor match race, make room for Michigan (16-1) and Ohio State (18-5). They’re legit and perfectly capable of being in Indianapolis for the entire duration of the NCAA Tournament. (Maybe Illinois, too.)
Social Media Reaction: Michigan Wolverines Top Ohio State Buckeyes
@umichbball is soooo good ! So many weapons and great teamfirst players. They take great shots , their D made OSU take guarded shots , and they really take care of the ball. @JuwanHoward and his staff have made this team special. Their game travels. #goblue— John Beilein (@JohnBeilein) February 21, 2021
Michigan's overall balance is its greatest strength. So many different people can be the assassin. Six players scored nine points or more today. THE TEAM. THE TEAM. THE TEAM.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 21, 2021
Efficiency numbers don't support this (yet), but the more I watch Michigan, the more I wonder if they're closer to the "Gonzaga-Baylor" tier than the "everyone else" tier.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) February 21, 2021
FINAL: No. 3 Michigan 92, No. 4 Ohio State 87.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) February 21, 2021
That was the most enjoyable high-level and competitive college basketball game of this season. Just two great teams fighting and shot-making.
Michigan-Iowa is Thursday.
Hunter Dickinson vs. Luka Garza should be terrific.
Another dominant second-half performance for Hunter Dickinson. Just not a lot of guys who can handle him in the paint. So good on the offensive glass.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 21, 2021
16 and 5 since halftime today.
Had six points and 11 boards in the second half last weekend against Wisconsin.
Helluva game.. Highest Level Game I’ve seen all year— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) February 21, 2021
just win 〽️!— Isaiah (@isaiah__02) February 21, 2021
GREAT WIN〽️😈— ⭕️Chaundee️⚠️Brown (@cbrownballin935) February 21, 2021
At some point you have to consider that Michigan belong in the conversation with Baylor and Gonzaga.— Bart T🏀rvik (@totally_t_bomb) February 21, 2021
The offenses were great in this game — make no mistake about that — but Michigan's defense stepped up in winning time (again).— Clayton Sayfie (@CSayf23) February 21, 2021
From the 11:43 mark until there were 23 seconds left, the Wolverines held the Buckeyes to 4-of-12 shooting and went on a 29-17 run.
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