ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan coach John Beilein had one of the longest days of his career on Saturday.
He couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
More than 17 hours after Beilein showed up at the Crisler Center with doughnuts for the fans, No. 17 Michigan finished off a 56-51 victory over No. 6 Ohio State.
The Wolverines (20-7, 10-4 Big Ten) are 15-0 at home and tied with the Buckeyes for second place in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Michigan State.
“This is a very special day for this program,” Beilein said. “There are a lot of small victories that come when you are rebuilding a program, and this was one of them.”
Beilein’s day started with a pre-dawn visit to Michigan fans lined up outside the arena to see the ESPN “GameDay” show.
“I got there at 6, and I was afraid we were only going to have 40 or 50 kids out there, but they were lined up past the football stadium,” Beilein said. “It was moving the way our fans embraced this game.
“It didn’t just feel like a rivalry game – this felt like we were playing for the Big Ten championship.”
The star of the night was a true freshman who was introduced to the fired-up crowd as “The pride of Columbus, Ohio, Trey Burke.”
Burke finished with 17 points, including a game-clinching runner with 11 seconds left that helped Michigan stop a six-game losing streak to the Buckeyes.
“I was going to call timeout, but I saw Trey had some room, and I trusted him to know what to do with a three-point lead in the final 20 seconds,” Beilein said. “He finished the game for us.”
Burke’s rainbow shot floated over All-America forward Jared Sullinger, hit high off the backboard and dropped through the net. Burke said he knew what kind of shot to take because he knew what to expect from Sullinger – his old high school teammate.
“Jared likes to take a lot of charges, so I knew he would be looking for that instead of trying to block my shot,” said Burke, who also had five assists. “I just wanted to pull up short and get it over him.”
Sullinger struggled in his head-to-head matchup with Michigan sophomore Jordan Morgan.
Morgan had his first career double-double, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds.
“He’s a great player, and we knew it was going to be tough to stop him,” Morgan said. “I just kept telling myself that we were playing for the championship tonight, and we needed this one.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta, though, thought Morgan’s biggest contribution came outside the boxscore.
“I think he must have taken five charges, which has to be an NCAA record,” Matta said. “I just kept telling our kids to try to avoid contact whenever possible, because everything was getting called.”
Deshaun Thomas finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds for Ohio State (22-5, 10-4), but Sullinger was the only other Buckeyes player to score more than six.
“No matter what you get from your top players, you have to get some balance,” Matta said. “We didn’t have that tonight.”
The other seven Ohio State players combined to hit just five of 23 shots as the team shot 38.8 percent for the game.
“We were taking good shots – they were open,” Thomas said. “We just weren’t knocking them down. Sully missed some shots that he normally makes, too.”
With the Michigan student section all revved up in its “Maize Rage,” the first half was a defensive struggle. Neither team was able to break 40 percent from the floor and Ohio State’s seven turnovers were the major difference – the Wolverines had only three while taking a 25-20 lead.
The Buckeyes missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half, but Thomas knocked one down on Ohio State’s first possession after the break.
Morgan, though, had a pair of fast-break dunks, both off long bounce passes from Burke, to give Michigan a 33-25 advantage. The lead got as big as 10 before three straight baskets by Sullinger pulled Ohio State within 42-38.
The Buckeyes couldn’t get any closer than three, however, and Burke’s layup made it 54-49 with 1:17 left. Burke blocked a shot at the other end, then missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Aaron Craft made two free throws, but Burke ran the clock down to 11 seconds before hitting the clinching shot and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“I’ve never seen Crisler rocking like it was tonight,” Michigan senior Zack Novak said. “This was really special.”
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