COLUMBUS, Ohio — Deshaun Thomas had 20 points and scored the first and last baskets in a 16-0 first-half spurt and No. 15 Ohio State beat second-ranked Michigan 56-53 on Sunday, probably denying the Wolverines their first No. 1 ranking in more than 20 years.
After Trey Burke, who led the Wolverines (16-1, 3-1 Big Ten) with 15 points, hit a 3-pointer to open the game, the Buckeyes took the lead for good although there were many nervous moments by the finish.
Burke had a shot to tie the game with 17 seconds left, but it rattled around and out.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. then hit two foul shots with 12.7 seconds left and Aaron Craft added two more to seal the outcome for the Buckeyes (13-3, 2-2).
The loss also prevented Michigan from setting a school mark for fastest start. The 1985-86 team had also opened with 16 wins.
Down 21 in the first half, Michigan kept chipping away. The Wolverines switched defenses, causing the Buckeyes problems with matchup zones.
With just over 11 minutes left, Burke had a chance to cut the lead to six points but Shannon Scott closed fast to block his breakaway layup. At the other end, Thomas made a 3 for an 11-point lead.
But the Wolverines kept applying the pressure.
Tim Hardaway, who had 12 points, scored on two slashes through the lane, Jordan Morgan hit a free throw and Hardaway then hustled back in transition to throw down an alley-oop pass from Burke. After a nice defensive play stopped Smith, Burke pulled up and hit a 15-footer. Hardaway then pumped in a long 3 from the top of the key behind a pick to narrow the gap to 44-43 as the clock ticked under 7 minutes.
Moments later, Glenn Robinson III was open for a 3 from the right wing to tie it at 46.
The Buckeyes regained some momentum when Shannon Scott fed post player Evan Ravenel for a dunk to regain the lead. On the next possession, Ohio State went inside again and Ravenel, averaging 6.3 points a game, bulled his way for another bucket.
After another Michigan missed shot, Thomas took a pass on the left baseline and made a quick spin to the endline before banking in a shot for a 52-46 lead.
The Wolverines missed six straight field-goal attempts in a row down the stretch, going scoreless for more than 4 minutes until Burke hit two free throws with 1:37 left to cut the lead to 52-48.
A steal and dunk by Robinson made it 52-50 with 1:16 left.
Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, missed an off-balance jumper from 15 feet with 50 seconds left. After a timeout to discuss strategy, the Wolverines worked the ball around before Burke’s shot with 17 seconds left. It rattled around and then ricocheted out, with Ohio State’s Smith rebounding. He was fouled, but the Buckeyes still weren’t in the bonus.
Smith was fouled again on the inbounds pass and converted both foul shots with 12.7 seconds left.
After Burke missed a long shot, Craft was fouled with 6.2 seconds remaining and hit two more free throws.
Burke closed the scoring with a banked-in 3 from in front of the Michigan bench.
The Buckeyes played perhaps their best of the season in the opening 15 minutes.
After Burke hit a 3 on Michigan’s first trip down the court, the Wolverines went 7:18 without a point. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were getting to the basket, hitting open perimeter shots, scoring in transition and holding their own under the basket.
Thomas got it going for Ohio State with a shot from the left wing that ignited scoring on seven consecutive possessions. Center Amir Williams followed a miss for a 4-3 lead before Craft — who had been in a shooting slump most of the year — popped in a 3. Then Smith blocked a shot by Hardaway and then hit a layup at the other end. Craft then scored on back-to-back drives. Thomas ended the spurt the way he started it, with a shot from the wing, this one a 3, for a 16-3 lead to cap the 16-0 run.
Michigan looked disorganized on offense and had difficulty making any stops on defense.
The Wolverines finally got a surge late in the half, thanks to Albrecht — who exceeded his career high by a point by scoring seven in the opening half.
He made all four free throw attempts after getting fouled on drives, then hit a 3 during a 14-5 run to close the half.
Ohio State had battled some nagging problems all season. The Buckeyes have struggled to find an offensive and defensive presence in the post after two-time All-American Jared Sullinger departed after last season for the NBA. They have also shot poorly in their biggest games, failing to hit 34 percent of their shots from the field in the losses to Duke, Kansas and Illinois.
The Buckeyes have been at their best against their worst opponents, and vice versa. They came into the game 12-0 vs. unranked teams and 0-3 against those in the Top 25. Their losses included defeats at Duke (ranked No. 1 before losing its first game on Saturday), at home against No. 6 Kansas and a lopsided defeat at No. 12 Illinois on Jan. 5.
The capacity crowd was loud and boisterous from the beginning. Students had camped out for a couple of days on the concrete just outside the side door of Value City Arena. There was a large banner above the tents that read, “Matta-ritaville,” in honor of coach Thad Matta and echoing Duke’s “Krzyzewskiville.”
Matta improved to 17-3 against Michigan.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap
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