| The Detroit News
A meeting of two of the top teams in the nation. A potential preview of a pair of Final Four contenders and projected No. 1 seeds.
Sunday’s showdown between No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State lived up to the billing as the rivals exchanged blow after blow throughout the battle of Big Ten heavyweights.
When the dust settled, the Wolverines were able to come out on top with a hard-fought 92-87 victory at Value City Arena in the rivalry’s first top-five matchup thanks to a dominant second-half performance from freshman center Hunter Dickinson.
Dickinson had 22 points and nine rebounds, with 16 points coming in the second half and 10 in the final 10 minutes, for Michigan (16-1, 11-1 Big Ten), which snapped a four-game losing streak in Columbus and won at Value City Arena for the first time since Feb. 11, 2014.
Senior guard Eli Brooks had 17 points, senior guard Chaundee Brown added 15 points, senior forward Isaiah Livers scored 12 and grad transfer guard Mike Smith chipped in 11 points for Michigan, which shot 53.4% from the field (31-for-58) and 47.8% from 3-point range (11-for-23).
Duane Washington Jr. (Grand Rapids) scored a career-high 30, E.J. Liddell had 23 points and 10 rebounds and CJ Walker scored 15 for Ohio State (18-5, 12-5), which shot 53.3% from the field (32-for-60) and 50% from 3-point range (11-for-22).
After throwing counterpunch after counterpunch throughout the first half, things didn’t change after halftime. Michigan and Ohio State traded the lead eight times over the first seven minutes and the Wolverines pulled ahead by four twice, the last on a Dickinson jumper to make it 59-55 with 13:25 left to play.
Ohio State used a 10-2 spurt that Kyle Young capped with a three-point play to pull ahead, 65-61, at the 10:00 mark. Michigan didn’t flinch, responded with a string of six straight points and went back on top, 67-65, on a fast-break layup from sophomore wing Franz Wagner.
After the Buckeyes took a one-point lead once more on a three-point play from Liddell, the Wolverines used an offensive putback from Brown and a pair of free throws from Dickinson to make it 73-69 with 4:52 remaining.
Ohio State twice pulled within one and both times Dickinson answered with a thunderous dunk and two more free throws before Livers turned a steal into a three-point play and an 80-74 lead at the 2:33 mark.
From there, Michigan was able to hang on. Dickinson once again delivered with an offensive putback and came up with a blocked shot that led to a Brooks layup, giving the Wolverines an 84-76 lead with 53 seconds remaining before they closed out the win at the free-throw line.
The heavyweight battle began as advertised, with Michigan and Ohio State trading blows as the offenses executed at a high level throughout a blistering back-and-forth start. The Buckeyes relied on Washington, Liddell and second-chance opportunities on offensive rebounds, while the Wolverines caught fire from 3-point range.
In the early stages, Ohio State rode the shot-making and hot hand of Washington, who needed less than nine minutes to reach double figures in scoring. He hit a deep contested 3-pointer to give the Buckeyes a 19-14 advantage with 11:18 left in the first half.
The Wolverines used ball movement to generate good looks and deliver a counterpunch with an 11-2 run to take their first lead. Brown buried a pair of 3-pointers – one off a cross-court feed from Dickinson — before Dickinson threw down a dunk and Smith splashed a deep ball to make it 25-21 at the 7:51 mark.
The Buckeyes pulled within one three times before Smith drained another long-range shot to give the Wolverines their largest lead of the half, 34-28, less than three minutes later.
Ohio State responded with a haymaker of its own in the form of a 15-6 flurry, regaining a 43-40 edge on a Liddell 3-pointer. The Wolverines immediately answered with a 3-pointer from sophomore wing Franz Wagner before the half fittingly ended with Brooks beating the buzzer with a drive and scoop for a 45-43 lead at the break.
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