Michigan 85 Ohio State 94... Cough Cough...
And then the clock read 8:20. 8:20, that's when the wheels fell off. Up three. Blink. Down seven. Ball game.
After the woodshed beating Michigan got from Iowa on Saturday I knew/hoped they'd come out and show us something. Anything. After being ranked for the first time in ten years, I knew a hiccup was coming at Iowa, the first real team they faced after getting their ranking. And true to form they got blown out. Yet I sensed tonight would be a different story.
This was "the statement game". This was the game they showed Michigan basketball was a legitimate Big Ten championship threat. This was the game we showed Michigan State wasn't a fluke. Not only that, Michigan is 16-3! We're going back to the dance! We can see our ticket, clearly sitting on the table, waiting to be picked up. This is the game where Michigan showed it belonged back with the best.
To their credit, they played hard. Courtney Sims was playing out of his mind. Faced with single coverage in the post, he became a threat, pouring in points (16 points) and grabbing boards (7 rebounds). In the first half! This was better than his box score in several games, combined. Even the team turnovers were somewhat under control. While you're never comfortable when your team lead the league in turnovers, the first half felt alright. They played close, and managed to be down just six at half-time. They were poised to make a run. And run they did. Sims continued his hot hand.
And all of a sudden, Michigan had gone from down six to up three. It looks in control. Okay, osu's making a run, no biggie. We'll be fine....
It was too good to last. Ohio State apparently forgot during the first half that placing two people on Courtney Sims makes it impossible for Michigan to run its offense. Unfortunately, after halftime they regained their senses. From the 10 minute mark of the second half, Sims didn't attempt a shot.
The statement game veered horrendously off course when an already hobbled squad lost Dion Harris to a sprained ankle. I'm not sure how it happened, I believe he went up to contest a layup, but he came down hard on his right ankle. Harris seemed to bring some order to the chaos that is our back court. The second he grabbed his ankle, you knew we were in trouble.
The only guard left to run the offense was Daniel Horton. After watching him play tonight I'd feel safer giving Oksana Biaul the keys to my car than having him as my de-facto point guard. The turnovers became comical. His final cough up to Terrence Dials was straight out of a keystone cops routine. In the blink of an eye we were down ten.
For some unknown reason, Amaker, seeing his squad in serious trouble decided to sit on his hands. An eight point run turned in twelve. Tommy's a good coach, but I can't for the life of me figure out what the hell he was thinking on that one. And then it was over.
This game was a statement game. The statement was “We ain't there yet.” And that tourney invite is looking a little less certain than it did earlier today.