Michigan and Ohio State each made only five three pointers in their matchup Tuesday night. Luckily for the Buckeyes, Michigan missed nineteen more. The Wolverines were held to an abysmal 5-24 from the three-point line (20.8%), and only 39% overall from the field, as they took the loss in Columbus 76-66. Ohio State missed nine threes, but shot 54% overall, and seemingly couldn’t miss in the second half.
Five players scored in double figures for the Buckeyes, led by the frontcourt trio of Jae’Sean Tate, Marc Loving, and Trevor Thompson, who combined for 38 points. Loving added 10 rebounds and 5 assists to terrorize the undersized Michigan frontcourt, and Ohio State’s strong team defense forced nine Michigan turnovers as well.
As for the Wolverines, Mark Donnal surprisingly led the team with 17 points. As the only player on the team to shoot above 50% with multiple shots taken, Donnal made his presence felt on the inside when Michigan’s shots weren’t falling from the outside. He grabbed three offensive rebounds, part of a seven-rebound effort for a team that surprisingly outrebounded Ohio State 34-31. Donnal’s putbacks were arguably the easiest shots of the night for Michigan, however.
Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr., responsible for most of the team’s recent scoring, shot an identical 5-14 from the field, finishing with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Many of their shots were forced, and they combined to go only 3-13 from the three point line. Marksman Duncan Robinson continued his cold streak, missing five of his six shots, including four threes.
Senior star Caris LeVert missed his twelfth game this season after returning briefly on Saturday against Purdue. LeVert has been dealing with a lower leg injury after having multiple foot surgeries the past few years. Against Purdue, LeVert struggled to get going, staying scoreless in only 11 minutes. Head coach John Beilein held LeVert out of Tuesday’s game since LeVert felt extremely winded after his short run on Saturday.
The Wolverines need LeVert to return if they hope to make a strong run towards the NCAA tournament. Fixed firmly on the bubble, the team could find itself on the outside looking in after suffering their first loss of the season to a sub-50 RPI team. Ohio State, on the other hand, added their strongest conference win of the season by defeating Michigan-a win that will assist their attempt to get off the bubble.
Michigan and Ohio State both sit at 9-5 on the season in Big Ten play, and Michigan sports a 19-8 record vs. Ohio State’s 17-10 record overall on the season. The Buckeyes will play Nebraska on the road before finishing the season against three ranked teams. The Wolverines don’t have it much easier, traveling to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins on Sunday, then finishing against Northwestern, a red-hot Wisconsin team, and the Iowa Hawkeyes. The team needs to win at least two of those games to realistically keep their tournament hopes alive, and a win against either Maryland or Iowa might go a long way towards the committee putting Michigan over the top and into the tournament.