As time ticked away, Zavier Simpson kicked to Eli Brooks for an open 3 and a chance to tie for Michigan.
The shot fell right of its mark, and after a back-and-forth defensive bout, Ohio State (15-7, 5-6 Big Ten) toppled Michigan (13-9, 4-7) 61-58 for its third straight win Tuesday in Ann Arbor.
Ohio State junior forward Kaleb Wesson led the way with a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Duane Washington added 17 points of his own.
Simpson, a senior guard, led the way for the Wolverines with 15 points.
Mirroring the 20 minutes that preceded it, the second half was a long slog with a rare field goal make often resulting in a lead change.
Sixteen times in the second half the lead changed hands, despite just 64 total points in the period. Neither team led by more than four.
An odd officiating decision surrounded the two most crucial lead changes.
Simpson drew a foul from Ohio State junior forward Kyle Young during a layup with less than a minute to go. But on his way to the ground, Simpson grabbed and ripped Young’s jersey and was issued a flagrant 1 foul.
Both players knocked down both resulting free throws, moving the score to 59-58 Ohio State with 33 seconds remaining.
With 1:23 remaining Brooks, a junior guard, drained a 3 to give Michigan a 56-54 advantage.
Washington responded with his own triple from NBA range to put the Buckeyes ahead 57-56.
When Michigan succeeded in the latter 20 minutes, it did so through Simpson. The Ohio native piled up 10 second-half points.
Michigan smoked Ohio State on the glass, out-rebounding its rival 45-31 with 14 boards on the offensive end.
With 5:33 to play, Michigan senior forward Austin Davis plucked a missed 3 from the air and stuck it back in the basket to even the score at 51.
With 6:31 to play in the first half, Michigan knifed a once-nine-point Ohio State lead back to two at 18-16 before Wesson stepped back to hit his third first-half 3. The Wolverines responded when sophomore forward Brandon Johns hit the team’s second triple in 10 attempts.
Three minutes later the two sides exchanged 3s a second time, and suddenly the lid was off the basket.
Fifteen of the two sides’ 55 first-half points came during a two-and-a-half-minute stretch from 3:33 to 1:03 remaining in the half.
The stretch did not define the contest’s opening 20 minutes, however.
Outside one player, the first 14 minutes of Tuesday’s game featured little offensive on either side. At the under-12 media timeout the teams were shooting a combined 26 percent from the field. Michigan was 1-for-7 from 3.
Wesson was the one bright spot during the opening stretch. Slightly over 11 minutes into the half, he’d already scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. A 3-pointer capped the prolific stretch to secure a 16-7 lead for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State continues its season against Wisconsin in Madison at 1 p.m. Sunday.