Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. That's what the Michigan Wolverines were saying after an extremely disappointing loss at the hands of the top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The woeful feelings were exacerbated by the fact that Tommy Amaker's club was in control for most of the ball game.
Dion Harris got senior day off to a rousing start with a three pointer from the corner before Jerret Smith chimed in with five straight points (including a triple of his own) moments later to give the home team an early 10-7 lead. Ohio State soon responded with a 6-0 run behind the interior play of Othello Hunter to gain their first lead of the day, but it was an advantage that wouldn't last long.
Michigan began picking apart the Buckeye defense, both in the halfcourt and in transition. The result was a 12-4 run in which six different Wolverines scored, putting Maize & Blue back on top 22-17 with 8:14 to go. The home team pushed that lead to eight four minutes later (29-21) on two Jevohn Shepherd free throws, but the Buckeyes mounted yet another run to stem the tide.
Ohio State senior Ron Lewis nailed two consecutive three pointers and then a two-point jumper to outscore the home team 8-2, and cut the lead to a deuce. Dion Harris gave the Wolverines a little breathing room with his second triple of the half, but two Buckeye free throws just before the break sent Michigan into the locker room clinging to a 34-31 lead.
After the intermission Buckeye headman Thad Matta decided to establish center Greg Oden inside. Two early buckets by the talented freshman keyed a 7-4 spurt by the visitors to open the half that gave them a 38-37 lead.
The Wolverines continued their counter punching ways by getting two-points apiece from Brent Petway, Courtney Sims, and Lester Abram to regain a five point advantage, but the Buckeyes just kept on coming.
Oden continued to punish Michigan inside by drawing fouls and capitalizing with four consecutive free throws. Soon after, his freshman cohort Mike Conley drained a three pointer to knot the score at 53 with 5:14 remaining. After the two teams tied it up at 55, Michigan went on what many thought would be the definitive run of the afternoon.
On the Wolverines ensuing possession Jerret Smith came open on the wing, rose up, and then buried a three-pointer to put the home team up 58-55. The next time down the floor the sophomore point guard delivered a perfect entry pass to Courtney Sims, who was fouled in the act of converting a lay-up. After he sunk the free throw the Wolverines were up 61-55 with 3:54 remaining. Unfortunately for the home team, things would unravel from there.
A coast to coast drive by Conley in just 10 seconds was the start of the demise. The next time down the floor Oden inched his club closer with a powerful tip slam. After two Ron Lewis free throws tied the score, an errant pass between Wolverine guards resulted in a run-out that Jamar Butler finished with a reverse lay-up to put the Buckeyes on top for good.
Tommy Amaker called timeout to settle his club down and draw up an offensive play to get back on track. When the Wolverines returned the floor they got exactly what they wanted… a wide open opportunity for Sims in-close… but the senior missed the two-handed slam that would have knotted things up. The home team was successful in getting a stop on the other end to give themselves another chance to tie the score, but Dion Harris was unable to convert the front end of a one-and-one after being fouled by Ron Lewis. That turned out to be the Wolverines last gasp, as two Jamar Butler free throws iced the 65-61 victory for the visitors.
"They're very talented," Amaker said afterward regarding Ohio State. "They come with a lot of weapons; there's no question they're an outstanding team, a talented team -- conference champions. They made plays down the stretch that allowed them to win this game. We have a six-point lead with two minutes and some change to go, and we didn't score again. Give them credit; they capitalized on every mistake that we made down the stretch. We had a few of them that were costly. But I'm proud of our kids. We're not into moral victories or anything, but I mentioned to them that we laid it all on the line, we put our hearts out there and -- in a lot of ways -- I thought that we deserved to win this game. But sometimes you don't always get what you deserve."
On the game Dion Harris led four Wolverines in double figures with 19. Greg Oden and Ron Lewis led the way for the Bucks with 16 points apiece. For more on the game click the following links: Boxscore, Notes, Quotes.
Michigan will next hit the hardwood in the Big Ten Tournament as the #8 seed where they will take on #9 seed Minnesota. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 am CST at the United Center in Chicago.