Looking at the bottom line of the No. 20 Michigan men’s basketball team’s win over Ohio State, the best way to describe sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin’s performance is mediocre.
Bufkin finished with nine points while shooting just 3-for-10 from the field — and an even worse 1-for-6 from deep — while adding seven rebounds and four assists. On paper, it was an average performance amid an already unimpressive start to the season.
What the box score doesn’t show, however, is Bufkin’s game-tying layup with just over a minute left, his clutch free throws that led the Wolverines to the eventual overtime win, and the many tough plays he made over and over down the stretch. plot.
“I think it just shows the toughness,” Bufkin said. “The ability to find a way to win is always important. … So to see that we have it now, even though sometimes you don’t always want to be in those situations, sometimes it’s just good to have that experience.”
In that experience, Bufkin provided. While he’ll get the plaudits for two of the game’s biggest plays, his attitude and toughness took center stage midway through the first half.
The entire starting lineup was benched after creating an early deficit, and Bufkin stood by the coaching staff. The remaining four starters went further along the bench and sat down right away.
Bufkin remained standing.
Not only for one or two minutes, but almost the entire time that the second unit of the Wolverines was on the floor. When freshman forward Will Tscheter earned a trip to the free throw line, Bufkin, already on his feet, threw a towel over his head like a lasso.
Despite a few miscues down the stretch, Bufkin exuded the same energy with the game on the line when he found himself with the ball in his hands on more than one occasion.
“(We’re) really just focusing on not losing,” Bufkin said. “Just trying to win, never want to get into a losing streak. So it’s just like dig deeper and win by any means possible.”
After grabbing the offensive board and getting fouled with two minutes left in the second half, Bufkin missed the extra free throw. This is not a phase of it. On the next possession, Bufkin drove through the lane and flipped it up and to the side, tying the game with just over a minute left.
When the Wolverines got the ball back, Bufkin tried to drive to the rim again, this time for a loss. This is not a phase of it. Seconds later, he hit a pair of free throws to give Michigan a two-point lead with two seconds left.
“It’s a pressure moment,” Michigan State coach Juwan Howard said. “You feel like you’re on an island by yourself. It’s hard. This. It’s hard. I’m so proud of Kobe just growing up. Not saying he didn’t grow up, but he really did grow up at that point because I don’t think a lot of us can make those kind of throws.”
After a crazy streak after the buzzer, Bufkin’s free throws weren’t enough for the Wolverines to finish off the Bobcats in regulation. But he brought that same intensity to overtime.
Bufkin was all over the place when he jumped into the lane, knocking an Ohio pass out of bounds or setting up freshman wing Jace Howard for a key 3-pointer — even if his shots weren’t hitting the target.
Granted, this game came against the Bobcats, who aren’t exactly the most controversial of opponents. Bufkin’s energy and clutch performance shouldn’t have been necessary to secure the win — but they were.
And Bufkin provided.