INDIANAPOLIS — Coach John Beilein said the ball may have bounced Michigan’s way but having players in the right place was the big reason the Wolverines claimed a 72-69 Big Ten tournament semifinal victory over Ohio State on Saturday.
No. 1 seed Michigan rallied from a late three-point deficit to overtake the defending tournament champion Buckeyes to advance to Sunday’s championship game for the first time.
The Wolverines (25-7) meet either Michigan State or Wisconsin at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Michigan (25-7) made a big run out of the gate then needed the late comeback to overtake the Buckeyes as guards Nik Stauskas scored 18 points, Caris LeVert had 17 and Glenn Robinson III added 11.
“When you look at so many of our games down the stretch they’ve been just like this,” Beilein said. “But you can only have that type of luck. With guys like (Stauskas and LeVert) they make enough smart plays to keep you in the game.”
Michigan trailed 68-65 with 3:43 to play when Stauskas ignited the game-winning surge with a 21-foot jumper. Robinson followed with two free throws for a 69-68 lead at the 2:55 mark and Stauskas’ short jumper 49 seconds later provided the decisive points as he extended the advantage to 71-68.
Ohio State guard Aaron Craft’s struggled to get off a desperation 3-point try from the top of the key as time expired.
“It slipped out of my hands,” Craft said.
Forward LaQuinton Ross scored 19 points, guard Shannon Scott had 18 points while forward Sam Thompson added 11 for the Buckeyes (25-9).
The used efficient 3-point shooting to jump to big early leads, including a quick 15-2 edge on three straight 3-pointers and five-of-six shooting in the first four minutes.
By the 10:50 mark Michigan had hit six of eight on 3-point tries and opened a 24-14 lead and four minutes later had a 37-22 advantage with their eighth 3-pointer and sizzling 14-of-19 shooting (73.6 percent).
Ohio State knew that sizzling start could not last.
After absorbing the Wolverines’ initial pummeling, the Buckeyes took advantage of Michigan turnovers and constructed a 12-4 run through the balance of the half. Craft kicked off the comeback with a 3-pointer while Ross added six points to trim the deficit to 41-37 by halftime.
“We just kept trying to tell ourselves that they couldn’t keep shooting the way they were,” Craft said. “We wanted to limit the open once and if they made a contested one, what can you do? We just wanted to stay aggressive and we did a great job fighting back by halftime.”
The Wolverines started the second half the same as the first as Stauskas had a pair of 3-pointers and guard Derrick Walton Jr. for 50-39 lead.
The Buckeyes again chipped away and claimed their first lead at 61-60 when Scott fed Thompson for the go-ahead dunk with 7:58 left in regulation. Ohio State led by as many as three points with less than four minutes to play.
Michigan was 12 of 23 (52.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
NOTES: Michigan, the top seed and regular season champ, beat Ohio State 70-60 on Feb. 11 in the teams’ only other meeting this season but still trails the all-time series 93-75 and is 2-4 in neutral site meetings. … The Wolverines reached the Big Ten semifinals for the third time in four years and has opening-round victories in six straight seasons. … Senior F Jordan Morgan played in his school record 137th career game on Saturday, moving past G Stu Douglas (2008-12). Three Wolverines ranked in the conference’s top 10 in 3-point percentage: G Nik Stauskas (45.8), G Zak Irvin (41.5) and G Caris LeVert (41.0). … Ohio State reached the Big Ten semifinals for the sixth straight year and ninth time overall since the tourney’s 1998 inaugural season. … F LaQuinton Ross averaged 22.5 points and 14 rebounds in two tourney games entering Saturday including a career-high 26 points against Nebraska on Friday. … G Aaron Craft has a 10.6 point average in 11 career Big Ten tournament games. The 2014 Big Ten defensive player of the year also has 52 assists, 19 steals and seven blocks and in postseason play. … The Buckeyes have limited opponents to
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