Home-court advantage doesn’t seem to mean too much in the Big Ten this season.
And no team is proving that truer than Michigan, which picked up yet another impressive win away from Ann Arbor on Tuesday, staging a come-from-behind, 70-60 victory over Ohio State in Columbus. It was the Wolverines’ first win in Columbus since 2003.
The win was the fifth road win for the Wolverines during conference play, a list that now includes wins at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, three ranked teams.
“All these games, these road wins, they’re part of it. And this is just unusual in this league right now to have the road wins that have been coming around, either to us or to other programs,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said after the game Tuesday night. “Really, it gives these kids a great deal of confidence as we still have two more on the road. When you go on the road, we’ve been in hostile situations. You can’t get worse than those four (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa). But we still have Purdue and Illinois coming up, and those are pretty hostile as well. So I think it just gives our kids confidence, but you’ve still got to go out and do it.”
There were many reasons the win was an important one, but chief among them was the Wolverines’ previous game, a blowout loss at Iowa last weekend. Michigan never had a chance in that one, and despite that season-long road success, it marked the Wolverines’ second straight loss on the road, following a defeat at Indiana. Beilein said that learning from the worst loss of the season spurred his team to the kind of effort it showed Tuesday.
“One of the big things is we do watch a lot of film with our guys. We spent about 45, 50 minutes with film with the Iowa game. And we really played poorly, and don’t take that away from Iowa, they were really good. But one thing that this team can do is they’ll sit and watch the film and they’re smart and they can pick up on things,” Beilein explained. “And they can point at themselves and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right coach, I didn’t hedge that screen or I didn’t hustle back on defense.’ And I thought we came in here with great commitment. I don’t know if we’d win the game, but for 40 minutes we were going to be in this game no matter what the score was.”
That’s just what the Wolverines did. Down by as much as 10 in the first half and ending the first 20 minutes looking at a four-point deficit, Michigan bounced back with a huge second half, out-scoring Ohio State by 14 in the final 20 minutes and marching on to a double-digit win.
Freshman point guard Derrick Walton had a lot to do with that. He finished the first half with only three assists and a pair of rebounds, but he exploded in the second half, finishing the game with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
“We weren’t hitting shots that we usually hit, and we were giving up easy baskets,” Walton said. “So coming out in the second half, we wanted to get stops, get out in transition, and that basically keyed our run.”
The win made Michigan the first team to reach double-digit wins in Big Ten play, and it effectively knocked a competitor out of the way in the Wolverines’ chase for a regular-season conference title, as the Buckeyes are going to have an awfully difficult time competing at this point, with their conference record evened at 6-6.