For 39 minutes, Ohio State's stranglehold on the No. 1-ranking in America was in serious jeopardy. In the game's final minute, the Buckeyes did what's expected of them: win.
Ohio State (27-3, 15-1 Big Ten) closed out the regular season by overcoming foul difficulty and a herculean effort by Michigan (20-11, 8-8 Big Ten) for a 65-61 victory that looked awfully elusive for most of the game.
Trailing for most of the contest, Ohio State looked unmotivated and outmanned to a more energetic Michigan club fighting for its' NCAA Tournament life. But down 61-55 with less than four minutes remaining, Ohio State closed the game out on a 10-0 run to preserve a 14-game win streak and No. 1 ranking.
The fouls piled up on the Buckeyes all game long. Freshman center Greg Oden played 23 minutes, most of which were played being plagued by foul trouble. With Oden off the floor, Michigan had gone on an earlier 7-point run to make it 51-44. Ohio State and Michigan battled back and forth until Michigan took a 61-55 lead with 3:56 left.
The 7-1 center, shooting free throws with his right hand for the first time, finished with 16 points and six rebounds. He shot 6-of-8 from the field and 4-of-5 from the line. Oden was a 78 percent foul shooter his senior season in high school. Oden also finished with a pair of blocks.
During those first 39 minutes, Michigan played with the type of energy and emotion expected of an NCAA Tournament contender. But like has been a problem all season long, the Wolverines were unable to hold onto a lead after senior Courtney Sims missed a wide-open dunk that would have given Michigan a lead and Dion Harris committed a critical turnover that led to an easy lay-up by Ohio State.
Still, Harris gave Ohio State nightmares in his final regular season game at Crisler Arena.
The senior scored 19 points as one of four Michigan players that notched double-figures. Fellow seniors Brent Petway and Sims added 11 points each. Petway was a match-up problem for the Buckeyes, also grabbing eight rebounds.
Also playing in his last regular season game, Ron Lewis was the star of the game for the Buckeyes. Making big shot after big shot, especially during a late first half run to close to within three points at half, Lewis finished with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Mike Conley added 11 points and four assists, and also made a critical three late in the game that tied it at 61 apiece.
Ohio State will now begin the Big Ten Tournament Friday as the No. 1-seed. They'll play the winner of what's likely to be Michigan and Minnesota Thursday, if Indiana beats Penn State as expected.
It's also believed that the Buckeyes clinched a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament along with UCLA and possibly two teams out of surging Kansas, Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina. Michigan is expected to miss out on the NCAA once again, barring a Selection Sunday surprise.