Michigan appeared to feel the pressure of being the top seed in the Big Ten tournament while Ohio State showed the resolve of a team that has made five straight conference title games.
On Saturday, the arch-rivals face off in the semifinals in Indianapolis after the Wolverines blew a 13-point second-half lead Friday before rallying against an Illinois team they defeated by 31 points 10 days earlier. Jordan Morgan hit the go-ahead basket with 7.9 seconds left to give Michigan a 64-63 win.
The fifth-seeded Buckeyes, who dropped a 70-60 decision at home to the Wolverines in their only meeting this season, overcame an 18-point second-half deficit against Nebraska to secure their 20th victory over their last 24 contests at this event.
As a result of the largest comeback in Big Ten tournament history, Ohio State advanced to the conference semifinals for the sixth straight season and improved coach Thad Matta’s record in March to 56-14. The winner of this contest will face Wisconsin or Michigan State in Sunday’s championship game.
TV: 1:40 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT OHIO STATE (25-8): LaQuinton Ross – the fourth Buckeye to have multiple double-doubles in a single conference tournament – became the fifth player to post 25 points and 10 rebounds in a Big Ten tournament game with his 26-point, 13-rebound effort on Friday. Ross joined Evan Turner (twice in 2010) and Jared Sullinger (once in 2012) as the only Ohio State players to accomplish the feat. Perhaps the most surprising contribution came from sophomore sharpshooter Amedeo Della Valle, who scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half – eclipsing his output from the previous nine games combined.
ABOUT MICHIGAN (24-7): Morgan’s game-winner came off a pick-and-roll that was designed for Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, who found Morgan in the paint as the defense swarmed him.
“That wasn’t the play (coach John Beilein) drew up, but like Coach says, ‘There is a time to be player and there is a time to make a play. Nik was just a player,” Morgan said.
Morgan’s bucket came a little more than a year after he missed a tip-in attempt in the final seconds against Indiana that would have allowed the Wolverines to capture a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
1. Since going 3-0 to win the inaugural Big Ten tournament title in 1998, Michigan has not won more than one game at this event.
2. Ohio State has lost its last two meetings with Michigan after winning 17 of the previous 20.
3. Morgan will pass Stu Douglass (2008-12) for first place in school history by appearing in his 137th game on Saturday.