William Buford led four Buckeyes in double figures with 19 and Ohio State survived a prolonged field goal drought by hitting 11/14 free throws over the final 8:37 to outlast Michigan 68-64 tonight in Crisler Arena.
Jared Sullinger played his worst game as a Buckeye getting exposed defensively as Michigan forced him to guard on the perimeter when employing a smaller lineup. He was late on quite a few defensive rotations while turning it over six times at the offensive end. He did manage 12 points, seven boards and three assists before fouling out but I'm sure he'll say tonight was a bit of a struggle.
David Lighty added 12 points and five boards but continued his career long troubles at the stripe converting just 6/13 though he deserves credit for continuously driving the lane in a 2nd half in which the Buckeyes failed to consistently click on offense.
OSU appeared to be in the driver seat after unleashing a 12-0 run to break open a 41-41 game. Sullinger started the blitz with a putback of a Craft miss and Lighty added a layup following a Michigan turnover. After the teams combined for five straight empty possessions, Sullinger found Diebler in the corner out of a double team for three to make it 48-41 good guys. After two more empty possessions from Michigan, Sullinger got loose for a dunk with a nice spin move to his right before Aaron Craft drew a charge at one end and buried a triple at the other pushing the Buckeye lead to 53-41 with 11:37 left in the game.
The run was sparked by a renewed energy at the defensive end as Ohio State forced seven turnovers and 2/7 shooting to start the half. Playing at home in front of Brady Hoke, the Wolverines answered with a 12-5 run however, during which Sullinger hit OSU's last field goal of the night at the 8:37 mark, cutting the lead to 58-53.
The Buckeyes would score four straight points on 4/4 free throw shooting from Sullinger and Lighty to move in front 62-53 but Michigan again answered with a run, this time a 9-2 spurt, trimming the lead to 64-62 with :22 left. With Michigan forced to foul, Buford calmly drilled two free throws and after Darius Morris hit a layup with 12.4 to play, the Wolverines were forced to foul again sending Craft to the stripe. The gritty freshman promptly buried both tosses giving the Bucks a 68-64 lead to close the deal.
Though they hit just 12/19 free throws in the 2nd half, the Bucks connected when it mattered most with the aforementioned 11/14 FT's over the final 8:37 and used timely defense to remain undefeated. Michigan hit 7/14 triples in the opening half but cooled off a bit going 4/10 in the final 20 minutes. The Buckeyes also forced eight 2nd half miscues after Michigan turned it over just four times in the 1st half. Additionally, after allowing UM to shoot 57% in the 1st half, OSU held Michigan to 48% in the 2nd. Even with the 2nd half improvements, Thad can't be pleased with the overall defensive intensity shown tonight.
Offensively, the Bucks shot 52% from the floor on the night including 7/14 from downtown while committing just 10 turnovers. The also won the glass 24-21 but hit just 68% from the stripe (17/25) overall.
Buford scored 14 of his 19 in the opening half on 5/8 shooting and keyed a 12-2 run that turned a 16-10 deficit into a 22-18 lead with 8:13 left in the half. The WB started the run finding Diebler for a triple then Diebs returned the favor finding Buford for a trey on the ensuing possession before hitting two free throws on OSU's next trip down the floor. After a dunk from Sullinger made it 20-18, Buford capped the run with a putback of a Craft triple try. The four point lead was the biggest of the half as Michigan stayed close on the strength of the 7/14 from distance. The Buckeyes eventually took a 35-34 lead at the break.
Dallas Lauderdale played just seven minutes mostly due to the fact Michigan went small combined with the fact Buford struggled to stay with Morris defensively. This paved the way for Craft to log 32 minutes, scoring 10 points including 2/4 from distance with two turnovers. He had a few issues but overall the kid continues to impress. He's getting more confident with his shot and though Morris did put up 18 points and eight dimes, Craft held his own helping force five Morris turnovers. He's also proving money at the line late in games which is obviously huge considering he's likely to have the ball in hands down the stretch.
The win improves OSU to 17-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play with three of those coming on the road. Ohio State has won 12 of the last 14 against Michigan, all under Matta. Combined with Tressel's 9-1 mark, the two coaches are 21-3 against our supposed rival.
The Buckeyes return to VCA for some home cooking as they play host to Penn State this Saturday at 5:30pm then Iowa next Wednesday. Following what should be two relatively easy victories, OSU enters a tough stretch that will pose a major threat to their perfect record with games @ #16 Illinois, home against #8 Purdue and @ Northwestern to round out the January calendar.