No. 1 Ohio St. 65, Michigan 61
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP)—Greg Oden took long strides walking up the tunnel out of Crisler Arena, and onto a warm bus.
The freshman star hopes to help No. 1 Ohio State take bigger steps this month in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
Oden scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half despite foul trouble, lifting the Buckeyes to a 65-61 win over Michigan on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Buckeyes (27-3, 15-1) didn’t have much at stake, playing almost a week after beating then-No. 1 Wisconsin to clinch the Big Ten title and top seeding in the conference tournament that begins Thursday in Chicago.
“We were playing for ourselves,” Oden insisted. “You never want go into the tournament losing, so it was big to get this victory. It gives us confidence going into the tournaments coming up, and it shows us what we need to work on.”
After trailing by six, the Buckeyes held the Wolverines scoreless for the final 3:54 to win their 14th straight game and their first as a top-ranked team since 1962.
“We were down six points and (coach Thad Matta) said, `We’ve got them where we need them,”’ Ohio State’s Mike Conley Jr. said. “You normally say that when you’re up.
“But we believed everything he said because he has so much confidence in each and every one of us. We stepped on the court after that, we all had a little more pep and energy.”
Michigan (20-11, 8-8) had chances to pull off the upset that might’ve secured an NCAA tournament bid, but couldn’t make the shots or stops in the final minutes.
“A very disappointing loss this afternoon,” Wolverines coach Tommy Amaker said. “Certainly our kids are disappointed. They have an outstanding team and they have a lot of weapons.
“We had opportunities to tie it up or even take the lead but we weren’t able to cash in.”
The Wolverines could’ve made it 63-all twice, but Courtney Sims missed a dunk with 1 1/2 minutes left and Dion Harris missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on their next possession.
Michigan had won four of six and had an opportunity to move a step closer to its first NCAA tournament bid since 1998.
“It’s the toughest loss we’ve ever had because we controlled much of the game against the No. 1 team in the country, and we had a lot on the line,” said Harris, who scored 19 points. “We just have to bounce back in the Big Ten tournament, and put it in our hands by winning some more games.”
Ohio State’s Ron Lewis scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half and Conley had nine of his 11 in the second in a game with eight ties and seven lead changes.
“A game like this lets us know we can win in these kinds of situations,” Conley said. “These kind of situations will help us as we come down to tournament time. Not every game is going to be a blowout.”
Brent Petway and Courtney Sims each had 11 and Jerret Smith added 10 for the Wolverines.
Michigan led by as much as eight in the first half and was ahead by seven early in the second half after Amaker was called for a technical—reacting as demonstratively as he has in six seasons at Michigan—when Oden wasn’t called for a foul.
On the next possession, Oden was called for his third foul with 17:01 left in the game. The Buckeyes kept it close with their star on the bench.
He returned midway through the second half, and the Wolverines went after him and scored six straight points to lead 51-44.
Oden responded, attacking on offense and drawing fouls. He was 4-of-4 at the line on the next two possessions to pull the Buckeyes within three.
“It helped us out with the run at the end of the game, so it was important,” he said. “We needed to be more aggressive.”
Oden shot free throws with his right hand for the first time since Dec. 30, when he attempted all but one from the line with his left hand. He had surgery on his shooting wrist last summer.
After Oden was called for a fourth foul with 4:55 left. He left the game briefly and Michigan went ahead 61-55.
The Wolverines didn’t score again and Ohio State closed the game with balance offensively.
“This was a great win,” Matta said.
The Wolverines had a lot on the line and they played like it.
After three ties and three lead changes, Michigan went ahead midway through the first half with a 10-2 run.
Michigan built a pair of eight-point leads before Ohio State pulled to 34-31 at halftime.
The Buckeyes shot just 39 percent in the first half—missing 10 of 13 3-pointers—but kept it close with nine points on offensive rebounds.
“We were really fortunate to come in here and get a win,” Matta said. “Michigan took it to us early. We were really fortunate to be down three at halftime.”
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