Zavier Simpson dominated Michigan’s rival — his home-state program — and recorded a triple double, as the Wolverines defeated Ohio State. The Buckeyes turned it over 19 times and recorded a season-low 0.79 points per possession (their worst output since a loss to Illinois in January 2013). Michigan hoisted plenty of shots from behind the arc and had a decent shooting night (37% from three) against a defense that featured plenty of zone; that was more than enough with how well the Wolverines played defensively.
Simpson was by far the best player on the floor: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 steals, and a ridiculous chase-down block on Ohio State’s center, Kaleb Wesson. He had several more assist opportunities that weren’t converted and forced more turnovers than the two steals in the box score. Ohio State showed Michigan a variety of defensive looks, and Simpson dissected them all. Whether it was taking advantage of a switch in the Buckeyes’ man-to-man defense, driving into the middle of their 2-3 zone to set up a shooter, or distributing the ball in the open floor, Simpson was magnificent. There were plenty of stretches of sloppy basketball throughout the game, but in the middle of it all was Simpson, who never faltered and didn’t turn it over once. His presence was essential for Michigan, as always.
Early in the game, Ohio State was able to score effectively because of Wesson: he popped for a three on the first possession, scored again after an offensive rebound, set up a cutting CJ Jackson for an easy two after a post double, and beat Jon Teske on a post iso for two more. By the first TV timeout, Wesson had seven points — but he only finished with 12 (on 12 shot equivalents). Wesson committed three fouls while chasing missed shots and received a technical after a little bit of shit talk between the rivals. Ohio State was forced to play a wing, his brother Andre, at the five for many of the minutes Kaleb was off the floor as part of a tiny lineup due to depth issues.
Ohio State led 17-12 with about 11 minutes left in the first half when the Wolverines were finally able to connect from three. Against the 2-3 zone, Michigan likes to get Jordan Poole spot-up opportunities on the wing; on one possession, he missed a three from the left wing, got it back and missed from the right wing, and eventually was set up by Simpson after another offensive rebound and hit one from the right wing on his third try. Poole never really found his shot, going 3-10 from behind the arc. That first three keyed a quick 10-2 run to propel Michigan into the lead.
Jackson would singlehandedly push Ohio State ahead after attacking a couple of Wolverine switches on screens, but Michigan finished the first half on a 7-0 run — Simpson beat Luther Muhammad off the dribble for a layup and found Ignas Brazdeikis in the corner for three, and Matthews tipped in his own miss in transition. Keyshawn Woods had two critical turnovers during that sequence, and Ohio State continued to turn it over after halftime — but Michigan started to as well. Neither team scored for the first two and a half minutes of the second half until Kaleb Wesson knocked down a three to cut Michigan’s lead to 32-29.
Simpson scored or assisted on Michigan’s next seven baskets, and the Wolverines opened up a 12-point lead during that span. He found Iggy on a cut from a nice set for an open layup; after snagging a rebound, he found a streaking Poole for a transition layup; he set up Isaiah Livers for a pick and pop three; he rebounded his own missed three and later made a reverse layup; he passed to Poole for a three against the 2-3; he drove and kicked to Iggy for a corner three; and he knocked down a rather audacious step-back three. That masterful stretch from Simpson was part of a larger 24-9 run over a good portion of the second half. Ohio State had no hope of stringing together enough quality offensive possessions to mount a comeback effort.
The Buckeyes played well at the beginning of the game, but couldn’t overcome a poor shooting night (5-21 from three) or the rash of turnovers (their turnover rate of 31% was their worst of the season). While Kaleb Wesson and Jackson each briefly got hot, neither was able to sustain their scoring against the Michigan defense. Luther Muhammad was quiet after a career game against Nebraska, Woods had a rough game, Duane Washington was bold but inefficient, and every Buckeye that played before garbage time turned the ball over at least once. While their defense was solid, they couldn’t stop Simpson from orchestrating what became a blowout win.
Besides Simpson, no Wolverine played exceptionally well: Poole led the team in scoring but took a ton of shots, Iggy had relatively pedestrian numbers by his standards, and Teske had a tough outing against Wesson (though his defense improved as the game went on). Livers’s three made three-pointers were a nice sign, since he’s struggled a bit following his injury-related absence. Michigan attempted half of its shots from behind the arc — a decent idea against an OSU zone that hasn’t been repped a ton and routinely conceded open looks — but Poole was off and there aren’t many other sharpshooters on the roster. Still, mostly through the efforts of Simpson, they finished just above a point per possession.
Michigan’s suffocated two opponents in a row, and their defense is back up to #1 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per Kenpom. With Michigan State’s loss on Sunday, UM and MSU are tied for the lead in the Big Ten. The Wolverines’ next contest is on Friday in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes, a tournament-quality team that plays a high tempo, scores efficiently, and can’t really stop anyone.
[Box Score After the JUMP]