It was the epic battle that all fans would hope for. A classic that was almost suited more for the football field than the hardwood, the Buckeyes and Wolverines certainly went at it on Tuesday night.
In a weird contradiction, a game that featured great defense also featured some big scoring from both sides. For Michigan, the playmakers came out and hit shots from beyond the arc. Tim Hardaway Jr. was 6-9, Trey Burke finished 5-7, freshman Nick Stauskas dropped 3-5, and Glenn Robinson III was 1-3 from behind the arc. Accounting for 45 of their 76 points, the three pointers doomed the Buckeyes in the end.
It was a bit of a breakout night for Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross on the offensive side for Ohio State. In 23 minutes on the floor, Ross accounted for 16 points on 7-10 shooting, including 2-2 from the three point line. Ross has certainly been an enigma all season, yet showed what he is capable of against the Wolverines. Craft had a memorable day until the final minute or so in overtime. Craft finished with 11 points on 5-12 shooting, including an incredibly long three point attempt with the shot clock winding down. Of course, Craft’s defense was truly the difference in his game. He ended up with 3 steals and countless defensive pressures that forced Michigan into turnovers.
The game was certainly a nail biter that featured quite a few major moments. First and foremost, Lenzelle Smith Jr. drained a shot with about 30 seconds left to tie the game, forcing a last-second fadeaway three from Trey Burke that nearly went down. In overtime, the action wasn’t as eventful. Both squads were unable to make a big bucket to put the game away. Michigan hit a three for the first points of overtime, and wouldn’t score again until they hit a free throw with seven seconds left in the half. Aaron Craft put the game within a point with one minute left and subsequently forced Trey Burke into a turnover. He then went on to take a jumper right in front of the free throw line that was blocked. After Glenn Robinson missed his second free throw, Craft took the ball down the court, was hit with some contact by Tim Hardaway Jr., was unable to put up a shot, and the Wolverines came away with the victory.
The man who was on the top of the minds of all Buckeyes after the game was DeShaun Thomas. Where, oh where, did old DeShaun go? He didn’t touch the ball in overtime after scoring 17 points in regulation. Sure, he was 6-15 from the field, not his best night, but when the game is on the line, you have to get the ball to your playmaker.
The Buckeyes are slowly, but surely, getting there. LaQuinton Ross and Aaron Craft have finally lived up to their roles, but DeShaun has to get more involved. There needs to be more balance. When DeShaun is making all the shots, LaQuinton and Craft are nowhere to be found. Wfhen Q and Aaron are doing their job, they don’t seem to get the ball to DeShaun enough. I have faith that the Buckeyes are going to find this balance sooner, rather than later, and are going to be a tough team to beat in March.
You never want to lose to That Team Up North, but when you do, you want them to be a great team. Certainly, the Michigan Wolverines are a great team this season, as much as it may annoy us. Tonight, their shots were falling like water, and even with their incredible shooting percentage, the Buckeyes were able to stay in the game, and probably should have won it.
For Ohio State, the next game is against Indiana on Sunday, in Columbus. Michigan just came off of a loss to IU in Bloomington before beating the Buckeyes on their home floor. It will be very interesting to see what Ohio State can do against the #1 team in the nation. Remember that Michigan was ranked #1 when the Buckeyes beat them in Columbus, so it’s certain that Ohio State can beat #1 again.