No. 19 Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State each are looking to climb the Big Ten standings and improve their seeding, not only for the conference tournament but also the NCAA Tournament.
That makes the second matchup of the season between the rivals even more important when they play in Columbus on Sunday.
The Wolverines (18-10, 9-8 Big Ten) and Buckeyes (19-9, 9-8) are tied for seventh place with three games remaining. OSU won the first meeting, 61-58, in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Feb. 4.
They share a similar path although their most recent games on Thursday had different results.
Michigan had its five-game winning streak ended with an 81-74 home defeat to Wisconsin. Ohio State won for the seventh time in nine games by going on the road to rout Nebraska, 75-54.
OSU coach Chris Holtmann liked the way his team took care ofbusiness against the overmatched Cornhuskers.
“I thought our guys had a good approach,” Holtmann said. “When you look at what Nebraska does to teams … they had a 12-point game against Illinois, but it was really a two-possession game. Sometimes you can see teams that have struggled to win games late in the season that aren’t playing hard.
“I thought our approach was good in understanding we were playing a team that was really going to compete.”
The Buckeyes were without starting forward Kyle Young (ankle sprain) and relied on a three-guard offense that was heavy on outside shooting.
Sometimes it worked, as in Duane Washington Jr. popping three 3-pointers on the Buckeyes’ first four possessions en route to the team making 6 of 13 triples in the first half.
“Duane has helped us in a couple games get off to really good starts,” Holtmann said. “He’s got a good mindset about him, whether he starts or comes off the bench.”
The Buckeyes, however, missed all 12 3-point tries in the second half.
“We are a really good shooting team,” Holtmann said. “We just missed some open ones tonight.”
Young’s status for Sunday is unknown, as is that of Michigan starting guard Eli Brooks, the Wolverines’ best defender. He sustained a broken nose against Purdue on Feb. 22. He could return vs. the Buckeyes wearing a protective mask.
Without him, the Wolverines had one of their worst defensive games of the season against Wisconsin. The perimeter and transition defense were not up to standards, Michigan coach Juwan Howard said.
“I would say we didn’t do a good job of doing the 3-point line,” he said. “I would also say it got away from us when the ball did not go down in the basket. The next thing, which was on the defensive side, it was more like a compound mistake where we put our heads down and we forgot we had to get a stop on the other end. I didn’t like our defensive disposition all game.”
–Field Level Media