Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico wouldn’t let up. With 30 seconds remaining and her team leading No. 8 Ohio State 84-75, she screamed at her team from the sideline. The Buckeyes made their final push. The clock continued to tick.
Then with 12 seconds remaining, Wolverine junior center Hallie Thome pulled down the rebound after senior guard Asia Doss’ off-balance 3-pointer clanked off the rim, sealing No. 19 Michigan’s upset. Arico turned around and finally relented, breaking out in a smile and raising her arms to the sky before hugging senior forward Jillian Dunston, who stood behind her.
The Wolverines had done it. Just nine days after falling 78-71 to Ohio State in overtime at home, which Arico said caused multiple sleepless nights, Michigan beat a top-25 team for the first time this season and handed the Buckeyes their first loss against a Big Ten opponent.
On the other side of the court, Ohio State sulked.
The home team led 41-36 at the half and let the lead slip out of its grasp in the third quarter. For the first time in Big Ten play, the Buckeyes trudged over to the band, which played a somber rendition of ‘Carmen Ohio’ before heading to the locker room.
“I don’t think we had the focus that we needed tonight to win,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “Just way too many mental errors against a good Michigan team. I thought they played well and when we would make mistakes, they’d make us pay. They shot 53 percent and outrebounded us by 13. We shot 36 percent. You’re not going to win the game.”
Redshirt senior forward Stephanie Mavunga thought Ohio State executed well in the first half. Thome committed two early fouls and Mavunga picked up 15 points, most of which came when the 6-foot-5 center was on the bench. They also forced the Wolverines into committing 12 turnovers in the opening quarters.
But everything changed in the second half.
“We came out real lackadaisical,” Mavunga said. “You can’t give people those open shots. It’s just kind of frustrating to kind of look back and be like, ‘Wow, maybe here, I should’ve hedged a little bit harder or maybe it’s just effort.’”
The Buckeyes connected on just 25.6 percent of shots and made 2-of-19 3s in the game’s latter half. Thome reentered the game, which buoyed Michigan’s interior offense and rebounding. Dunston held Mavunga, Ohio State’s consistent first-half offensive weapon, to six points after halftime.
The Wolverines held a 10-rebound advantage in the second half and added 22 points in the paint. Thome and senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan’s two leading scorers this season, combined for 39 of their team’s 48 points in the final two quarters.
“It comes down to want. Michigan is going down for loose balls. They’re beating us plus-10 or whatever they are on the boards and that’s just really embarrassing, especially because we work on these things every single day,” Mavunga said as she lightly slammed her fist on the podium, emphasizing each word. “These are things coach harps on. And so for us to get dragged in those possession and kind of just not care out there is just kind of very frustrating.”
Effort and mental focus were areas of concern early in the season, especially during the Buckeyes’ uninspiring win against Washington. But during its now-snapped nine-game win streak, Ohio State consistently dominated teams, only winning by single-digits once. That night-to-night effort did not carry into Tuesday’s game.
“You turn around, you could see the energy was just kind of slow the first two possessions [of the second half],” Mavunga said. “It’s like they punched us in the face and we didn’t really know what to do. I just think we need to do a better job of playing 40 minutes of basketball.”
The path to winning the Big Ten does not get any easier for Ohio State. It will attempt to bounce back with a tough road game against No. 14 Maryland at 7 p.m. Monday. The Wolverines, on the other hand, head home for a game Saturday against Illinois.
In the meantime, Arico can finally get some sleep. She said Michigan’s team told her it would not blow a second-half lead against the Buckeyes, like it did nine days ago.
“Sometimes, I don’t believe everything they say, but they’re usually right,” Arico said.
Tuesday night, they were right.