The trio of Evan Turner, Wil Buford and B.J. Mullens combined to score Ohio State's final 27 points and the Buckeyes used a 17-3 run to turn a 44-40 deficit into a 57-47 lead with just over a minute to play before Turner hit 6/6 free throws in the final :27 to secure a 65-58 victory tonight in Crisler Arena.
Though he shot a sketchy 4/12 from the floor and committed an insane five turnovers, Turner scored a team high 19 points thanks to an 11/14 night from the stripe. The sophomore also posted game highs with eight rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes of action.
Supporting Turner, Buford and Mullens added 15 apiece on a combined 13/19 from the field with Mullens adding six boards and three blocks while Buford chipped in five boards and four steals.
Big nights from the emerging freshmen helped offset a relative no-show from Jon Diebler (3 pts, 1/4 FG) who has now failed to score more than seven points in three of the last four games.
As usual in the Big Ten, this one was a game of runs. Besides the 17-3 dagger, the Buckeyes started the game on a 7-0 burst thanks to five points from Buford and built the lead to 27-16 before Michigan closed the half on a 9-2 run to cut the Buckeye lead to 29-25 at intermission.
The Buckeye defense was large in the first half holding Michigan to 3/13 from deep and 7/26 overall but the Wolverines exploited the Buckeye zone in the second half shooting 7/16 (43%) from beyond the arc.
Manny Harrris did his thing scoring a game high 21 points including nine in the first seven minutes of the second half while Stu Douglas was the prime benefactor of poor defensive rotations on the wings hitting two straight triples to give Michigan the 44-40 lead just before Turner, Mullens and Buford took over.
Except for a stretch in the second half the Buckeyes again looked focused on making the extra pass and involving the bigs. The focus was especially evident early as the they built a 16-4 points in the paint advantage in before halftime.
Jeremie Simmons played a significant role in that approach during the first half registering four points and three assists in limited minutes due to foul trouble.
In his absence, P.J. Hill was his high energy self recording a nasty block erroneously called a goal tend though he did struggle handling ball pressure leading to a few second half miscues which Michigan promptly turned in to points. I still say Hill looks like he's doing a lot with his hair flopping all over but the stat line shows he really isn't doing much at all in comparison to Simmons.
The bottom line continues to be this team needs Simmons to continue to grow because he is clearly the more complete player. Even tonight, while playing only five more minutes he outscored Hill seven to zero and out assisted him four to zero. At least with Simmons on the floor the other team has to at least account for him at the offensive end whereas when Hill is running the offense it's almost like the defense is playing five on four.
The good news is Hill is proving himself a serviceable safety net because Simmons has been anything but consistent thus far.
With a trip to Illinois scheduled for Tuesday followed by a home tilt with Michigan State it would be a great time for Simmons to show some consistency though both games figure to be losses as I gaze into the crystal ball.
Even with two potential losses looming, tonight's win is big as the team moves to 3-2 in conference and 13-3 overall with four resume enhancers already in hand.