INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — No. 8 Michigan blew a 12-point second-half lead, then finished the game on a 7-1 run to beat archrival Ohio State 72-69 in Saturday’s Big Ten tournament semifinal.
The league’s regular-season champs will face No. 12 Wisconsin or No. 22 Michigan State in Sunday’s championship game.
Nik Stauskas had 18 points and Caris LeVert had 17 to lead the Wolverines (25-7), winners of seven straight. It will be Michigan’s first title game appearance since 1998, when it won its only tourney title, which was later vacated.
Ohio State (25-9) was led by LaQuinton Ross with 19 points and Shannon Scott with 18.
The Buckeyes rallied to take their lead at 61-60 with 7:57 to go and still led 68-65 with 4:12 to play.
But the Wolverines allowed just one free throw the rest of the way and Aaron Craft lost control of the ball on a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
The Buckeyes were on the verge of pulling off a second stunning comeback in two days. After digging out of an 18-point deficit to beat Nebraska in Friday’s quarterfinals, the Buckeyes found themselves down 16 in the first half and 12 with 14:56 to play.
But Michigan rallied to fend off the Buckeyes, who lost for only the third time in their last 10 games.
The Wolverines hadn’t won back to back games in their last 15 frustrating Big Ten tourney trips, and had lost all six previous matchups against the Buckeyes.
The Wolverines opened both halves with three consecutive 3-pointers, breaking to a 15-2 lead to open the game and appeared headed toward an easy win after turning a 41-37 halftime lead into a 54-42 advantage just four minutes into the second half.
The Buckeyes used a 9-2 spurt to get within 56-51 and finished a 10-2 run with Sam Thompson’s alley-oop dunk to take their first lead, 61-60, with 7:57 to go.
That’s when last year’s national runner-up got tough.
Michigan cut the Ohio State lead to 68-67 on an 18-foot jumper from Stauskas, the Big Ten’s player of the year, and retook the lead for good when Glenn Robinson III made two free throws with 2:55 to play.
All the Buckeyes could muster after that was one free throw from Ross, but they still had a chance to tie it after Spike Albrecht missed the second of two free throws with 6.2 to seconds to go.
But the ball came right out of Craft’s hands as he leapt to take the shot from the top of the key and the Wolverines came up with the loose ball to seal it.