No. 5 Michigan regained its swagger in its most recent game. That's bad news for one of its bitter rivals.
The Wolverines scored the first 17 points of the game and blasted Indiana 69-46 on Friday in Bloomington. They return home to face Ohio State on Tuesday night.
In its previous two games, Michigan (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten) showed some vulnerability. The Wolverines took their only loss of the season at Wisconsin on Jan. 19, then required a buzzer-beating basket from Charles Matthews to survive Minnesota on Jan. 22.
Against the Hoosiers, the Wolverines looked like the same coldly efficient, confident group that cruised through the first two months of the season.
"It was foolish of me to expect this tremendous growth from the Wisconsin game on a day and a half of practice. And we didn't have it, and that was disappointing to me," coach John Beilein said. "Minnesota has a good team, and we were very fortunate to win. We have to embrace the adversity of Wisconsin and get better from it. I think we saw it (against Indiana)."
Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis led the way Friday with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting. He shot a combined 4-for-23 from the field in the previous two games.
"I trusted myself fully," Brazdeikis told reporters. "My teammates have full trust in me to take shots, to make plays. My coaches have trust in me, and that means everything to me."
Brazdeikis leads a balanced Michigan attack at 15.2 points per game. Matthews, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds at Indiana, ranks second on the team at 13.1 ppg. Jordan Poole (12.6 ppg) is the team's top perimeter threat as a 42 percent 3-point shooter.
Center Jon Teske has reached double figures in scoring each the past five games, boosting his season average to 9.2 ppg. The team's catalyst, point guard Zavier Simpson, has scored in double figures in five of the past six games.
Michigan can tie its other rival, Michigan State, for the Big Ten lead with a victory over the Buckeyes.
"To get a third road win in this league is huge," Beilein said. "You have to mount those up if you are going to compete for a championship."
The Buckeyes have won four of the past six meetings with the Wolverines, but Michigan prevailed 74-62 in the most recent meeting last February. Ohio State was ranked in the Top 10 at the time, but Poole and Simpson scored a combined 28 points, and Michigan led throughout the second half.
Following a five-game losing streak, Buckeyes (13-6, 3-5) recorded a much-needed victory on Saturday, defeated Nebraska on the road, 70-60.
"This group has been pretty tied together," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. "Even through as hard a stretch anyone of us could have dreamed of, and I'm sure the tough times aren't ending, they really stayed together. I think they felt a little bit of momentum in some things going our way, and that was great to see some smiles on their faces."
Freshman guard Luther Muhammad scored a career-high 24 points, and Ohio State led most of the second half.
"I thought we did a much better job taking care of the ball in the second half," Holtmann said. "We struggled to open the second half defending them, but I thought we got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys. It was probably as complete an effort as we've had."
Muhammad is the team's third-leading scorer at 9.9 ppg. Sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson leads the Buckeyes at 14.9 ppg and 6.8 rebounds per game. Point guard C.J. Jackson ranks second in scoring (12.6) and first in assists (3.7 per game).