In a virtually empty Value City Arena, the matchup between No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State in February looked more like an intense NCAA Tournament game in March: good shooting, timely 3-pointers, fierce play under the rim, few mistakes, and some late drama.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 21: Head Coach Chris Holtmann of the Ohio State Buckeyes, center, and Head Coach Juwan Howard of the Michigan Wolverines, far right, come together at mid-court to discuss an injury timeout with the referees in the second of their game at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio on February 21, 2021. Michigan defeated Ohio State 92-87. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

After six ties in the second half, Michigan pulled away in the final minutes and then held off Ohio State 92-87 Sunday in a meeting that showcased two teams aiming for No. 1 seeds next month.

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“It was like a boxing match,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “One team delivered a blow. The other team delivered another blow. It went back and forth. Our guys showed their mental toughness through some of those ups and downs.”

The win also highlighted the importance of Michigan’s 7-foot-1 freshman center Hunter Dickinson, who had several inches and considerable reach on Ohio State’s big men. He led the Wolverines with 22 points and nine rebounds, hitting all six of his foul shots.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 21: Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines puts up two points over the defense of Zed Key #23 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio on February 21, 2021. Michigan defeated Ohio State 92-87. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

“I thought his length and size bothered us,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann acknowledged.

Michigan (16-1, 11-1 Big Ten) had pulled away and led by nine with 23 seconds left. But a pair of 3-pointers from Duane Washington Jr. around a layup by CJ Walker got the Buckeyes within three points with 3 seconds to go.

Ohio State was forced to foul, and Eli Brooks hit both of his free throws to seal Michigan’s fifth straight win, a run that came around a three-week break due to COVID-19 issues.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 21: Franz Wagner #21 of the Michigan Wolverines draws a foul on E.J. Liddell #32 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio on February 21, 2021. Michigan defeated Ohio State 92-87. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Brooks had 17 points, Chaundee Brown Jr. came off the bench to score 15 and Isaiah Livers added 12 for Michigan, which snapped Ohio State’s seven-game win streak.

Washington had a career-high 30 points and went 5 for 10 on 3s for the Buckeyes (18-5, 12-5). E.J. Liddell had 23 to go along with 10 rebounds.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 21: Duane Washington Jr. #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drives the lane to lay in two points in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines at Value City Arena on February 21, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

“It was a great game, man,” Washington said. ” Two top 5 teams, and I thought we competed at a really high level. We were in a good position to bring it home. Basketball is a game of runs and they had theirs toward the end there, and we just got to be a little better in the closing stretch.”

Both teams shot 53% from the floor.

HOT AND THEN NOT

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The Wolverines came out launching 3-point shots, hitting 10 of 13 in taking a 45-43 lead at halftime. Brown was 3 for 3 from long range, and Brooks and Mike Smith each hit two. But Michigan cooled off in second half, hitting just 1 for 10.

BIG PICTURE

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 21: Justice Sueing #14 of the Ohio State Buckeyes, left, is defended by Isaiah Livers #2 of the Michigan Wolverines as he drives to the basket in the first half at Value City Arena on February 21, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

In an exceptional year for the Big Ten, the two teams are battling for the conference crown with No. 5 Illinois. Ohio State and Michigan both are projected to be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. This tight late-season game should keep both high in the polls and in the spotlight as the tournament approaches.

MORE ON HUNTER

Howard said Dickinson has worked hard to improve and it is showing. The coach said they have an “amazing relationship.”

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 21: Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines drives to the basket in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio on February 21, 2021. Michigan defeated Ohio State 92-87. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

“In all the areas of group work, one-on-one of film session, team workouts, big man workouts, he is growing before our eyes,” Howard said. “It takes a freshman a little longer to figure it out. Hunter has a high basketball IQ due to his passion for the game. Hunter wants to be coached.”

UP NEXT:

Michigan: Hosts No. 11 Iowa on Thursday.

Ohio State: At Michigan State on Thursday.

 

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