Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Michigan 66, Ohio State 76: Oh no

What is a basketball, but an orange orb, darting through the heavens, like a dimpled comet, on its way to cutting the cord

As ESPN embarked on the avant-garde cinematographic journey dubbed "Floor Seats," a basketball game was played. 


That game featured the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes, second-tier Big Ten squads sitting at 9-4 and 8-5, respectively, in league play -- both, to some degree, fighting for an NCAA tournament spot. 

Unfortunately, watching this game on TV was like sitting behind a stanchion at Wrigley Field. But perhaps it was fortunate, as save for a brief spurt early when Michigan led 12-10, the rest of the game essentially filled the mold of the standard 2015-16 Michigan basketball loss. 

The Buckeyes shot 54 percent from the field (59 percent in the second half) while Michigan shot just 20.8 percent from three. Michigan showed transient glimmers of life late in the second, cutting the deficit down to as few as seven points as late as just under the five-minute mark. 

But they didn't have enough to make it any closer, falling 76-66 in Columbus and moving to 19-8 (9-5) on the season. 

Mark Donnal led Michigan with 17 points. Meanwhile, five Buckeyes scored in the double digits, including Marc Loving and Jae'Sean Tate, who led the home team with 13 apiece. Duncan Robinson was held to three points on 1-for-6 shooting. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin combined for a 10-for-28 night from the field. 

Save for a few very isolated mini-bursts, Michigan's offense struggled from start to finish. 

Michigan started slow, picked it up, then was handled by OSU's bench players A.J. Harris and Kam Williams in the first half. 

Meanwhile, Michigan, back to a Caris LeVert-less state, started 5-for-16 (2-for-7 from three), with nothing coming easy, as is usually the case when the shots don't immediately start falling on the road. 

Tate and JaQuan Lyle complemented the bench squad with a combined 15 first-half points of their own, and the Buckeyes took a 36-28 lead into the break. 

Michigan kicked off the second, surprisingly, with activity in the paint, including a bucket by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, a finish by Mark Donnal and a drawn foul by Donnal at the rim (which, like Dakich said, should have been an and-1, but resulted in a split pair of free throws). 

But, just like that, Ohio State had its way with the Michigan defense, extending the lead to 10 with a thunderous dunk by Trevor Thompson off of a lob pass. 

Michigan proceeded to pick up its sixth foul of the second half -- just over five minutes in. When it's not your day, it's not your day. 

A Zak Irvin three cut it to seven late, but Michigan didn't have the juice to get any closer, with a lifeless offense and an interior defense that might as well have not been there. 

With the loss, Michigan still needs at least one more win to feel somewhat comfortable about a tournament berth. Lose out, and it's dire straits. 

At Maryland, Northwestern, at Wisconsin and Iowa: that's how the Wolverines close the regular season. 

If tonight didn't inspire confidence vis-a-vis the prospect of pulling off an upset, you wouldn't be alone, particularly with how the Wolverines have played on the road. Even Northwestern, which had tournament hopes at the beginning of the season that have since fizzled out, won't be an easy out by any means. 

Michigan fans will simply have to hold on -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

And if you're feeling more confident than that, you'll probably still need to hold on, to something, after tonight's dizzying exercise in how to not broadcast a live sporting event. 

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