It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves. That's how the game pretty much went for the #14 ranked Buckeyes on Sunday as they hosted the second ranked Wolverines. With top ranked Duke losing its first game to NC State on Saturday, Michigan entered Value City Arena as the only undefeated team in the nation. Ohio State came into the game with only 3 losses, but each of those losses came at the hands of highly ranked teams. Because of that the Buckeye fans were anxious and ready to see their favorite team break the ice on defeating the toughest competition.
The game started out a bit tentative. After a couple of trips across the court, Michigan scored a 3-pointer to go ahead of the Buckeyes. A couple more trips up and down the court yielded no results for either team, then suddenly the Buckeyes whipped themselves into a massive whirlwind of basketball energy worthy of what could be the best team in the nation. Offensively they could not be stopped. Defensively they halted one of the best offenses in the country, and completely shut down all of its star players.
After being initially down by 3 to Michigan, Ohio State went on a 16-0 run that put the Wolverines back on their heels. During the five and a half minute run, the Buckeyes managed to steal the ball from the Wolverines 5 times, each time turning the turnover into points for Ohio State. Even after Michigan scored to break the run, Ohio State's play was relentless, leading the Wolverines at one point by 21 points. With about 6 minutes remaining in the first half, Ohio State began to slow the pace a bit, and the Wolverines took advantage of it, starting to whittle away at the lead. Still, the amazing Buckeye dominant first half ended with the Ohio State firmly in command holding a 12 point lead, 34-22.
As the second half started the Buckeye fans were eagerly anticipating the rout to continue, but there's a reason that Michigan was ranked #2 – they're a very good team. It was only a matter of time before they started to get into a rhythm and turn this into a ball game. For some reason, the Buckeyes decided to help them. Unlike their successful play in the first half, Ohio State slowed the game down and played a half-court offense. This fed into the strengths of Michigan, and that combined with some missed scoring opportunities by the Buckeyes allowed the Wolverines to gradually eat away at the lead until the score was tied 46-46 at the 5:59 mark.
But the Ohio State defense that had played so remarkably well all afternoon didn't let up. Some very good rebounding and a couple more steals allowed the Buckeyes to gradually restore a buffer between them and the Wolverines. Michigan had to resort to fouling the Buckeyes, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft sunk all four of their combined free throws to prevent a last minute Michigan victory, capping the game with a 56-53 Buckeye win.
After overcoming the 3-0 score at the beginning of the game, the Buckeyes never relinquished their lead. It was a good win for Ohio State, and their first this season against a highly ranked opponent. The Michigan trio of Tim Hardaway, Jr., Trey Burke, and Glen Robinson III, who usually score a combined 60+ points, were held to a combined 35 points. By contrast, Deshaun Thomas scored 20 points, while Aaron Craft and Sam Thompson each had 9 points.
Next up for the Buckeyes is Michigan State this Saturday, 1/19, at 6:00pm. The game can be seen on ESPN.
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