Offensive struggles doom Buckeyes again

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A momentum-killing home loss to Michigan Tuesday night was deflating for Ohio State.

More disappointing was its predictability. The book on No. 20 Ohio State is pretty open, and the Buckeyes are every bit as offensively challenged as every scouting report says they are.

They missed long, short, left and right Tuesday night, and after a slow offensive start No. 18 Michigan finally made a few shots. It didn’t need to make many.

All 12 of Ohio State’s made field goals in the first half came in the first 13:35. The Buckeyes made 11 total in the second half — three after the outcome had basically been decided. Michigan won, 70-60, but basically won it over a six-minute stretch early in the second half that saw the Wolverines take the lead for good at 44-43 with just under 11 minutes left.

The Buckeyes offense was so bad that six-point deficits felt like 16. Ohio State shot 20 3-pointers and made just three — one in the first half, two in the second and all by Lenzelle Smith.

Ohio State is shooting 33 percent on 3-pointers in Big Ten play but would have settled for 23 percent Wednesday night.

"It’s hard to go 3-for-20 and win," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said, stating the painfully obvious.

Just as painful? Michigan point guard Derrick Walton getting 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Ohio State got 4 bench points, all from Shannon Scott. Michigan got three of its 14 offensive rebounds in the final four minutes, further deflating an Ohio State team that was already chasing. The Buckeyes couldn’t buy a bounce on or off the rim. The names and faces are different for Michigan, but the Wolverines left no doubt in the regular season’s only meeting between the teams of which is better.

Michigan goes to 18-6, 10-2 in the Big Ten. Ohio State slips to 19-6 and 6-6 in conference.

Ohio State had won three straight games to get back in the Big Ten race; everybody’s beating everybody in the conference again, and no dominant team has emerged. A dominant theme of poor shooting and offensive inefficiency has emerged for Ohio State, though, and it stings every bit as bad this third home conference loss.

That’s not a good thing for the Buckeyes, who play great defense and have a very nice mix of experience and athleticism. They just don’t have consistent shooters, and 24 points from LaQuinton Ross in this one weren’t nearly enough.

"Over the last five games (Ohio State) shot 42 percent and they were winning," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Tonight, part of it was our defense and part of it was just a tough night shooting for them."

Said Matta: "We didn’t have the execution we needed, and we missed some pretty good shots. We backed off. We weren’t in the attack mode we needed to be."

Worse than the shots not dropping is Ohio State players knowing they won’t. There’s still plenty of season left, but Ohio State lost an opportunity to change both the shape of the Big Ten race and perception on Wednesday night.

"No question, when we’re at our best we have three or four guys who are clicking," Matta said. "There’s no doubt about that, this team has to do more feeding off of each other and making each other better."