- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - No. 8 Michigan ended 15 years of Big Ten tournament frustration Saturday.

There’s still some work to do before it can really celebrate.

After blowing a 12-point second-half lead against its most bitter rival, Michigan closed the game with a 7-1 run and survived a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds for its first tourney win over No. 24 Ohio State, 72-69.

“We weren’t thinking about winning the Big Ten Conference championship, the tournament,” Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas said. “We were thinking about just beating Ohio State. This is a rivalry game.”

For the Big Ten regular-season champs, it was a big moment.

Michigan (25-7) hadn’t won a semifinal game since 1998, when it won the inaugural tourney title only to vacate it because of NCAA rules violations. Since then, the Wolverines hadn’t even won two straight games in the league tourney and had lost all six times it played the dreaded Buckeyes in Indianapolis or Chicago.

Not this time.

The top-seeded Wolverines started the game with an offensive flurry and ended it with a stout defensive stretch that ended with Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft losing control of the ball as he tried a 3-pointer that could have forced overtime. Instead, the Wolverines came up with the loose ball to eliminate the conference’s defending tourney champion.

Stauskas finished with 18 points. Ohio native Caris LeVert had 17 points and seven rebounds and Glenn Robinson III wound up with 11 points, including two free throws that gave Michigan the lead for good with 2:55 to play.

The Wolverines won their seventh straight in large part because they were 12 of 23 on 3-pointers against the Big Ten’s top-rated 3-point defense and didn’t allow a basket over the final four minutes.

The only thing sweeter than beating the Buckeyes would be winning Sunday’s title game against No. 22 Michigan State. The Wolverines won both games against the third-seeded Spartans this season. Michigan State advanced with an 85-73 win over second-seeded Wisconsin in the second semifinal.

“Those are the three best defensive teams in our league. They’re just really difficult to score points on,” coach John Beilein said, referring to the Badgers, Buckeyes and Spartans.

But getting to Sunday wasn’t easy, either.

Michigan blew a 13-point lead in Friday’s quarterfinal victory, surviving a scare from ninth-seeded Illinois when Jordan Morgan’s layup rolled in with 7.9 seconds to go and Illinois guard Tracy Abrams missed a driving layup at the buzzer.

It was more of the same Saturday. Michigan led by as much as 16 in the first half and 12 in the second and still needed another late miscue to seal the win.

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