We all know that the biggest battle between Michigan and Ohio State is tomorrow when Terrelle Pryor announces where he will play college football, but those two schools met on the basketball court last night in a far less publicized event. Michigan came out playing strong and were actually leading the Buckeyes in the second half. Things were looking good until the team just completely folded as the clock ticked down. It almost seemed as the scoring drought was right on cue considering we’ve seen it happen so many times already this season. Ohio State’s tough defense kept Michigan from scoring hardly anything in the final 10 minutes, and the Buckeyes finally got it going offensively. That combination gave OSU the lead late and they never looked back as they went on to win 65-55.
ESPN talked about how the team recently was showing more intensity and really seemed like they were starting to feel more comfortable in the John Beilein system. That was this case for the first 30 minutes of this game. In the first half, Michigan was playing great defense in the paint and was able to contain OSU’s game from outside the arc. It definitely was a pleasant change from what we usually see – domination in the paint and a flurry of three-pointers.
Offensively for Michigan, they faced a full-court press that caused a lot of trouble. At the same time, though, the Wolverines were able to beat the defense many times to set up an easy shot. The execution of those shots wasn’t always great, but the fact that good looks were there translated into more scoring.
Another reason for success on offense early on was the play of the bench. Zack Gibson was able to find a couple scoring opportunities when the guards beat the full-court press, and then Anthony Wright came in the game and again somehow managed to hit a three-pointer. He had 8 points overall to lead all bench players.
Going into the second half of this game with a lead, Michigan was able to maintain their great play for around 10 minutes. Then, as I already said, it was time to fold down the homestretch. There were almost no open looks in the final 10 minutes of this game, which is what caused a scoring drought of over 4 minutes. If it weren’t for an Ekpe Udoh three-pointer, the drought would have lasted much longer. I believe ESPN said Ohio State finished the game on a 17-3 run. That alone should tell you how the end of this game played out.
If you’re keeping tabs on Michigan’s moral victory record for this season, then go ahead and chalk up another in the win column. Unfortunately, moral victories really mean nothing, especially when they’re so common. A win here or there may not mean much to some people when the season was over before it really even started, but to a team that has only 5 wins, a victory is the cause for celebration. I will say that this team has looked a lot better sometimes in the last couple of weeks, but they have got to learn how to finish and play well for all 40 minutes of a game. The best example of that was against Wisconsin when a near upset fell short. That was the case again tonight, except they came up short for 10 full minutes instead of the final minute.
Michigan’s next chance to get win #6 on the season comes this Saturday at home against Penn State. Tip-off is 4:00 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. PSU looked great in an upset win over Michigan State last Saturday, so this will be another tough game for the Wolverines.