Although the sixth-ranked Buckeyes (16-1, 4-0) won few points for aesthetics and scored 25.6 below their conference-leading season's average, Foster found value in the method.
"I really think these kinds of games determine the difference between good season, very good season, great season. Because quite frankly, when the game is easy and you have more horses than they do and you're playing at a certain level and the ball is moving - everybody wins those games," Foster said. "When it's not there..."
Ohio State rolled into the contest on an eight-game winning streak that included victories of 24 points or more in each of its last five, but the Buckeyes never led Michigan (9-5, 1-3) by more than four points.
That came when Samantha Prahalis made a windmill layup to complete a give-and-go with Jantel Lavender and prompted Michigan head coach Kevin Borseth to call timeout with 3:44 on the clock and his team trailing 55-51.
He opted to do just that to help his team regroup several previous times in the game.
"They push you off the cliff, and I don't want to get pushed off 10 times in a row," Borseth said. "After you get pushed off once, it's like, ‘Let's take time and gather ourselves here.'"
The strategy helped his team stay close, but it hurt them when they were out of timeouts at the end.
Michigan drew within one when Veronica Hicks hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with 2:18 left, but Prahalis pushed the Ohio State advantage back to three, 59-56, with a one-handed leaner in the lane with eight seconds on clock.
Borseth quickly called timeout to put shooter Courtney Boylan back in the game, but that was his last one, so he could not draw up a play after Ohio State took one of its fouls to give with two seconds left.
Boylan ended up throwing up a one-handed shot on the run from about 25 feet as Shavelle Little, the Ann Arbor, Mich., native and two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, pressured her. The shot hit the front of the rim and bounced upwards looking like it had a chance to fall in to tie the game but fell away after the horn sounded.
That left Ohio State fans among the 5,658 in attendance able to breathe again and the small but vocal contingent of Maize and Blue backers disappointed.
Many of the Michigan fans no doubt came out to see a pair of Ohioans return to their native state to suit up for the Wolverines in the starting lineup, and they were treated to double-digit performances from both.
While Reynolds, a sophomore forward from Hilliard-Davidson, tallied 12 points, the game's leading scorer was Dayeesha Hollins, a freshman guard from Cincinnati Winton Woods who poured in 19.
She made 8 of 10 shots from the floor and consistently gave the Buckeyes fits by using her quickness to get to the basket for layups.
Lavender led Ohio State with 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Prahalis piled up 15 points, three assists and a pair of steals.
The Buckeyes struggled all day on the offensive end, unable to get good looks inside consistently or knock down three-pointers.
Ohio State was a collective 2 for 13 from beyond the three-point arc, a stat undoubtedly affected by the absence of regular starting power forward Sarah Schulze, a junior who missed the game while receiving treatment for knee bursitis.
After the game, Foster was not willing to speculate on how long she would be out.
"It's just something that hopefully the medicine works and it's a quick turnaround," the head coach said.
Junior Alison Jackson replaced Schulze in the starting lineup and scored four points in 15 minutes. More of a midrange jump shooter, Jackson did not attempt a trey, and her fellow starters Prahalis (1 for 6), Tayler Hill (0 for 3) and Brittany Johnson (0 for 2) combined to make only 1 of 11 from beyond the arc.
Maria Moeller came off the bench to hit 1 of 2 treys, but that was not enough to prevent the Buckeyes from needing to find other ways to score.
"When you're 2 for 13 from the three-point line, that's not going to get it down, and when they're double-teaming Jantel as much as they were, her adjustment was to get away from the basket and then all of a sudden we're getting some jump shots and some decent isolations, but I think these games really really determine a lot through the course of a season."
The Buckeyes also answered by getting to the free throw line 19 times and making 13 while the visitors were just 2 for 4.
"We got to the foul line and I think that determined the game," said Foster, who improved to 11-0 against Michigan as head coach of the Buckeyes.