For the third time this season, and the 14th time in the last 16 games, Ohio State took down Michigan using a 16-0 run midway through the 2nd half on the way to a 68-61 victory today in Conseco Fieldhouse.
The win earns Ohio State a spot in the conference championship game tomorrow against the winner of Michigan State and Penn State.
Jon Diebler led the way with 16 points, Jared Sullinger posted a sturdy 14 point, 13 rebound effort albeit with some shaky shooting (5/13 FG, 4/10 FT) and William Buford chipped in 14.
With David Lighty and Aaron Craft saddled with foul trouble early in the first half, the Buckeyes also received big minutes from Deshaun Thomas. The lefty played some solid defense grabbing four boards and scored nine points on a controlled 4/6 from the floor in 21 minutes.
Tied at 25 after a Tim Hardaway Jr. and-1 on Jordan Sibert with 3:05 left in the half, Ohio State used a 6-2 run to close the half with a 31-27 lead and kept the spurt alive scoring the first seven points of the 2nd half to take a 38-27 lead with 16:19 left in regulation. Four different Buckeyes scored during the burst including a nice lefty drive from Buford, two bully moves on the low block from Sullinger, a steal and nifty left scoop shot from Diebler and a three pointer from The Tank.
As they’d done in the previous two meetings, Michigan clawed back 47-45 with 9:53 to play sparked by Tim Hardaway Jr. and combined 8/10 shooting but the Buckeyes had the answer in the form of a 16-0 run spanning four minutes.
Sully started the blitz with a barreling move to his left for two. After a Hardaway Jr. miss, Sullinger was fouled, made the first free throw and missed the second but Lighty was there for the offensive rebound and putback making it 52-45 good guys with 8:27 left.
The intensity ratcheted up a bit shortly thereafter as Sullinger stepped on Jordan Morgan at the start of the under eight minute TV timeout prompting Sullinger, Morgan and Buford to chirp right in front of the Michigan bench.
The minor scrum didn’t disrupt the Buckeyes as Craft splashed a triple out of the timeout before Buford put together three straight buckets via a silky pull up jumper in the lane, a paralyzing hesitation move for a layup and finally a soft jumper from the left wing. After another Michigan miss, Craft capped the run with a pair free throws giving the Buckeyes a commanding 63-45 lead with 4:45 left on the game clock.
Though the game was all but over, Michigan did put on a cute little 13-0 run to close the gap to 65-61 with :21 left but Diebler hit one of 1/2 from the stripe and Lighty 2/2 to wrap it up.
With Sullinger using his trunk of junk to clear space, Ohio State built a 28-18 edge on points in the paint. The Buckeyes also posted an 11-3 cushion in fast break points.
Ohio State shot 46% from the floor, 36% from downtown and a dismal 57% at the stripe while holding Michigan to 37% shooting including 9/29 from distance (9/29).
Darius Morris led Michigan with 16 and Hardaway Jr. added 15.
Now, how about that officiating? I’m not even going to note all the bad calls. My bigger issue with both Valentine and Hightower is the non-stop theatrics. We all know they love to be on TV but the growing antagonism they show towards coaches and players needs to be dealt with. The demonstrative pointing at Lighty on his 2nd foul of the 1st half was beyond out of line and Valentine was even worse when he basically put his finger in Smotrycz’s chest when whistling him for a foul on the baseline. It happened right in front of me and even after the finger poke, he was in the kid’s ear which made no sense as Smotrycz wasn’t even really whining about the call. I’m so sick of those two blowhards.
To finish on a positive note, Ohio State is 46-4 in their last 50 games.