If anyone doubted the fact that the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry is back, this afternoon’s display of strategic basketball on both sides of the floor shows the real story in the Wolverines rise back to prominence in the Big Ten Conference.
A look at the scoreboard after this one doesn’t quite put it into context. After running into the best overall effort from Ohio State starters, the Wolverines hit the road with arguably their best performance in the last 8 years against their out of state Rivals. Despite a lackluster second half, and as much as we hate to say it — this team remains as one of the top to be reckoned with in this conference and in March.
Even after falling 64-49 in Columbus.
You can site the incoming talent, but in reality it’s the coaching of John Beilein. After taking an early 5-0 lead, Ohio State began to find their rhythm. Deshaun Thomas nailed a three to get the Buckeyes on the board with 18 minutes to go in the first. Lenzelle Smith followed with a beautiful layup and dish off to Jared Sullinger for the emphatic dunk in the low post.
Down two, Beilein made the adjustment to a 2-3 defense. Early it was effective, as Ohio State’s offense was unable to penetrate through and to the hoop. Despite giving up some tough baskets early, the Wolverines were able to set the pace through their defense in the first half.
Of course, that didn’t deter the best rebounding guard in the nation.
With 13:20 remaining in the first, Lenzelle Smith Jr. went up and got the basketball in traffic and battled in the low post for two points off the glass. In a matter of three minutes, Lenzelle Smith Jr. ripped down four rebounds, scored five points and picked up a key assist.
After going back in forth for the next several minutes, Tim Hardaway would snag the basketball at mid court and have what looked to be a wide open look to the hoop. Aaron Craft had other thoughts on his mind as he swatted away the breakaway attempt as a trailing Sam Thompson got the secondary block. After a timeout, Ohio State took their first lead in quite some time with a Lenzelle Smith layup to make it 29-19 with three minutes to go in the first frame.
With one minute to go in the half, William Buford would drain a three to make it 24-21 heading into the locker room.
Both teams would come out of the gates running in the second. Deshaun Thomas started the scoring with a beautiful fadaway jumper to give the Buckeyes a 5 point lead. Tim hardaway would respond on the next possession with a breakaway layup off the glass. After a Buford miss for three and Trey Burke steal, Stu Douglass hit a three on the opposite end to make it 26-26.
That’s when Aaron Craft took over.
After hitting a three from the wing, the guard hit William Buford on a pinpoint pass into the low post for a beautiful two that made it 36-33 buckeyes with 15:23 to go. William Buford would follow that up with a three attempt from the corner. Lenzelle Smith Jr. would haul in the long rebound on the opposite elbow and put it back for two more points.
A minute later Buford would make up for the wide open miss with a steal at mid-court that turned into an easy two points off the one handed jam to push the lead to 40-33. Aaron Craft would follow that up with a beautiful drive to the lane and up to the hoop and in. He’d miss the old fashioned three point play, but Ohio State would control the basketball game from that point.
Ohio State would have the best overall performance from their starters this afternoon. A balanced effort as all five finished with seven points or more Everyone but Aaron Craft secured five rebounds or more as well.
Jared Sullinger, who struggled early against the physical inside presence of Jordan Morgan, would score six straight points late. He’d finish with 13 points and 5 rebounds. Deshaun Thomas and William Buford would tack on 12 points apiece.
The story of the game though was the play of Lenzelle Smith Jr. He finished with his first career double double. He scored 17 points, brought down 12 rebounds, and as a key part in what was listed as the biggest key to winning in our pregame glance. Of his 12 boards, 8 came on the offensive side — giving Ohio State plenty of second chance opportunities.
Overall, Ohio State shot 43% from the field, and just 20% from three point land. They were able to score 12 more points from the line though today, going 15/18. The Buckeye defense held Michigan to just 35% from the field.
The win now makes Ohio State head coach Thad Matta 8-0 against Michigan in his tenure.
Up next for the Buckeyes is a Saturday affair with the Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center. Tip-off is set for 2 PM