COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In the difficult Big Ten, it was another difficult loss.
Nik Stauskas scored 15 points and freshmen Derrick Walton III and Zak Irvin each had a big game as No. 15 Michigan overcame an eight-point deficit early in the second half to beat No. 22 Ohio State 70-60 on Tuesday night.
“Every night is a war,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “What you see in this league now is a bad 3- or 4-minute stretch can cost you. That was evident tonight.”
The Buckeyes (19-6, 6-6 Big Ten) led by as many as 10 points in the first half, then mustered only four points over the final 6:23 to take a 30-26 lead into the break.
After Michigan (18-6, 10-2) pulled within a point, the Buckeyes built a quick eight-point lead but couldn’t hang on as the Wolverines went on a 12-0 run to take control.
Ohio State was seeking its fourth win in a row in an up-and-down season.
The Buckeyes won their first 15 games to get to No. 3 in the nation. Then they lost four in a row and split the next two. Coming off two huge road wins, winning at No. 14 Wisconsin 59-58 on Feb. 1 and at No. 17 Iowa 76-69 on Feb. 4, they beat Purdue at home 67-49 on Saturday night.
Now, another step back.
“Every loss hurts. Obviously, you can’t get comfortable,” point guard Aaron Craft said. “We found a way to play tough on the road for a couple of games and then we came home and got one. Today we didn’t have it.”
Walton scored 13 points, added a career-high 10 rebounds and was just one behind his previous best in assists with six. Irvin came off the bench to score 10 points, hitting both of his 3-pointers and adding a solid defensive effort.
The victory ended a nine-game skid over the last 11 years in Columbus for the Wolverines, who came into the game tied for the top spot in the conference with Michigan State.
“We love getting road wins. That’s one of the hardest things to do in this conference,” said senior forward Jordan Morgan, who had eight rebounds – six on the offensive glass – and contributed six points. “Any time you can get one of those it’s big. Obviously, this game means a lot to a lot of people. For us to come into this environment and get this win is big.”
LaQuinton Ross had 24 points and Lenzelle Smith Jr. 13 for Ohio State, which had a three-game winning streak snapped. The Buckeyes hadn’t lost to their archrivals on their home court since a 61-50 setback on Jan. 15, 2003.
Ohio State got as close as 51-50 on two free throws by Ross with 6:21 left before Morgan scored inside. Then, on the next trip down the floor, he kept the ball alive on an offensive rebound, leading to a 3 by Stauskas.
Shannon Scott’s steal led to a dunk by Buckeyes teammate Sam Thompson, and Michigan was hanging on, 56-52, with 3:24 left. But Columbus native Caris LeVert drove the lane and flicked a pass to the right corner to Glenn Robinson III, who hit a 3 with 2:45 left to push the lead to 59-52.
“Robinson’s 3 from the corner was huge,” said Matta, who fell to 17-5 against Michigan.
After Craft airballed a 3 at the other end, Walton was fouled on a 3 with 1:54 left and calmly made all three to push the lead to 10.
The Buckeyes didn’t threaten again.
“We’ve got a tough group of guys,” Ross said. “I think everybody’s going to come back to practice with a different mentality. Guys will be down about it tonight, but we have to look forward. There are six games left in the Big Ten and we have to be ready for those.”
Craft echoed those words.
“As much as this may hurt, we have to move forward,” he said. “We have to find a way to continue to get better because nothing’s guaranteed and there’s still a lot to play for.”
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