The Wolverines welcomed the Buckeyes into the Crisler center this weekend, and sent the Buckeyes packing with their fifth loss of the season by a score of 56-51. The Buckeyes struggled shooting the whole night but had several chances to tie it up late in the second. Unfortunately, Michigan did just enough to keep Ohio State from ever gaining the lead. DeShaun Thomas had a huge game for the Buckeyes picking up a double double by scoring 25 points on 8-13 shooting, including 3-6 from three, and grabbing 13 rebounds. Trey Burke lead the Wolverines with 17 points and 5 assists for the game.
The Michigan defense came to play early in this one. Ohio State’s offense needed several trips before they finally found their first bucket from the left elbow from DeShaun Thomas – a shot he repeated on the subsequent trip down. The Wolverines weren’t going to let such a golden opportunity escape them, putting down 8 points before the first TV timeout and getting the crowd into the game in a big way.
The offensive explosion from the guys in maize was particularly impressive as they spread the scoring out evenly amongst the starters. Trey Burke had a nice dribble drive with several spin moves to get a good close range shot, while Tim Hardaway had an excellent 18 footer from the left wing. Morgan and Novak also hit a couple easy baskets to help out the run.
Hardaway came to play in this one and dropped several big shots from the outside. Having disappeared for several straight games, his presence was much needed for this Michigan team to have success. With his shots falling from the outside, especially with Buford going cold for most of the night, it was a very bad sign for the Bucks on the road.
The tenacious Ohio State defense managed to cool Michigan’s shooting. By working on the boards and contesting every UM shot, the Bucks were able to slowly chip away at the lead. Buford’s play, especially his rebounding effort, was critical to OSU’s methodical climb back into the game. On an 8-2 run midway through the first half, the Bucks managed to close the game to within one.
Michigan wasn’t going to stand for it at home. A couple big shots from the outside, including a huge three pointer from Stu Douglass, made the Buckeye’s hole much deeper. The way OSU was playing offense, however, made the six point lead seem insurmountable. In fact, the Buckeyes themselves seemed to feel that way as they put up three pointers repeatedly early in their possessions without Jared Sullinger ever getting his hands on the ball. The strategy was almost costly, as Michigan missed another three point attempt that would have blown the roof off Crisler Arena.
The Buckeyes were extremely lucky to only be down by single digits at the half. Ohio State counted off seven straight minutes without a single field goal dropping. With the Buckeyes shooting 0% from the outside, while shooting 60% inside, it was nearly inexcusible that they continued to take shots from beyond the arc. The scoring drought finally ended when DeShaun Thomas threaded a pass down the lane into a cutting Buford who scored the tough reverse layup under the basket.
Amazingly, this OSU team demonstrates repeatedly how good they are – even when they’re playing crappy basketball. How many games has this team played that we have felt that the other team had complete control? The answer would be none. Even with Brandon Paul going crazy, the Buckeyes only lost by 5 and had a realistic shot of winning that game in the end. Yet again the Bucks were down at the half, but not so far out that they didn’t have more than a chance to regain control.
Ohio State began the second half better than they started the first. By getting the ball into the lane, they forced Michigan to come into the paint to defend Sullinger, allowing DeShaun Thomas to drop a critical three – Ohio State’s first of the day. The Bucks continued to systematically attack the paint which began to draw the Wolverines into cheap fouls, forcing UM to play into OSU’s hands.
But it was UM’s hands that were being played in to. The Wolverines quickly built a 10 point lead by taking advantage of poor offensive decisions from the Buckeyes. Several bad Buford shots led directly to fast break slam-dunks on the other end. UM also took advantage of a couple turnovers and easy layups to open the lead. The Buckeyes did a very poor job of recovering on defense and constesting the fast break, something they’ve been very good at under Thad Matta.
With Tim Hardaway keeping the Michigan lead at 10, the Buckeyes needed something to change if they hoped to get back into the game. That change came in the form of Jared Sullinger’s effort in the paint. On two consecutive possessions the OSU big man got a past his defender, something he had struggled to do to that point in the game. With Sullinger starting to look like he was activating “Beast Mode”, Michigan needed to come up with a defensive answer to stop him.
While that answer eventually materialized by collapsing the defense into the paint whenever Sullinger got the ball, DeShaun Thomas made them pay with his hot shooting hand for the night. With the Buckeyes finally finding ways to score the basketball, Michigan seemed unable to keep them down. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Buckeyes could take the lead for the first time in the game. Unfortunately, time was limited, and Michigan was doing (did?) just enough to keep OSU at arms length.
Michigan shot 21-46 (45.7%) from the floor and 3-13 (23.1%) from three. The Buckeyes were unable to match that, shooting only 19-47 (40.4%) and 3-14 (21.4%) respectively. Amazingly, the Buckeyes succeeded in out-rebounding their opponent 34-25, but weren’t able to make good use of the advantage.
Ohio State will next face the Illinois Fighting Illini on Tuesday, February 21st at 7:00 PM EST. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN.