A No. 1 distraction? Michigan's reckless, rattled start at Ohio State proves costly in first loss
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Michigan coach John Beilein hates rankings, and he doesn't care who knows it.
But, at the same time, he knows he can't keep his team from ignoring them.
And Sunday, with the Wolverines playing for a shot at grabbing the No. 1 spot in America, Michigan seemed to get too caught up in the moment of everything -- showing its true age for the first time all year.
"That all played a part in (this)," Michigan point guard Trey Burke said after the Wolverines' 56-53 loss at Ohio State on Sunday. "That would have definitely been a great opportunity.
"But everything happens for a reason. They were the better team today."
Well, technically, Ohio State (13-3, 3-1) was the better team for 13 minutes. Way better, in fact.
Playing on a national stage for a chance to elevate to the nation's top spot for the first time since 1992, Michigan (16-1, 3-1) imploded during the opening moments.
In the game's first 13 minutes, Michigan had 7 turnovers, went 3 of 13 from the field and spotted Ohio State a 29-8 lead.
Not exactly how you draw it up.
"We got very, very excited about this opportunity," Beilein said. "We got out and probably challenged a little bit too much, defensively, from our base defense.
"I like having the guys that have the big hearts and the big courage, and want to get out there and get after it ... but you have to be very careful."
Michigan entered Sunday's game with plenty of emotion. Ohio State did, too. The difference between the two teams? The Buckeyes controlled it, the Wolverines didn't.
Michigan entered the game boasting one of the country's most efficient offenses. But for the first 13 minutes, they looked like they were trying to play tennis on Mars.
Turnovers led to runaway dunks. Defensive lapses led to easy layups. And frustration seemed to mount with each passing second.
"They definitely outplayed us to start with," Michigan junior forward Jordan Morgan said. "I think it was a new experience, being in an environment like this, for a lot of my teammates."
Michigan's freshman class, a group that had performed as perhaps the best rookie group in America through 16 games, didn't quite have the same juice the Wolverines were used to seeing at home. In fact, the group's smallest and least-used player, Spike Albrecht, was actually its best -- as he finished with 7 points in 11 minutes.
Freshman Nik Stauskas did not score, snapping a 15-game double-figure scoring streak. Glenn Robinson III had 8 points and 1 rebound in 38 minutes. Caris LeVert was a non-factor, and while Mitch McGary had some bright spots (6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks), he was only on the floor for 18 minutes.
"You all have computers, do your homework," Beilein said. "See how many people are (giving five freshmen significant minutes). They're getting better and better, they have great attitudes and we can't wait to coach them.
"The rankings are irrelevant. To me, the rankings are irrelevant. We're all about 'what's the end of the story? What are you like in March?' "
There was a silver lining to this game for Michigan.
The Wolverines really didn't get a top-notch performance from anyone on their roster and they still came within one in-and-out 3-pointer of 17-0 and the top national ranking in America.
Michigan was out-scored 28-9 in the first 13 minutes, but the Wolverines outscored Ohio State 45-27 -- on its own floor -- over the next 27.
The Wolverines had a shot at No. 1 Sunday, and saw it go up in smoke during 13 over-hyped, over-amped minutes against rival Ohio State -- a team that was more than happy to bring Michigan back down to Earth.
Said Ohio State senior forward Evan Ravenel: "There's always satisfaction in denying Michigan the No. 1 spot in the country."
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