Ohio St.-Michigan Preview
Ohio State narrowly escaped with a victory in the Big Ten
It had a couple of close calls in the regular season against
Michigan, as well.
The top-ranked Buckeyes look to advance to the tournament
championship game for the fifth time in six years Saturday in
Indianapolis when they face a Wolverines team that needed a furious
comeback to make the semifinals for the first time in seven
Ohio State (30-2) beat Northwestern on Friday to solidify itself
as a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, while fourth-seeded
Michigan (20-12) defeated Illinois to bolster its chances of making
the field of 68.
Neither win was easy.
The defending tournament champion Buckeyes needed overtime to
defeat the eighth-seeded Wildcats 67-61, and the Wolverines rallied
from 12 down and scored 21 of the game’s final 25 points in a 60-55
win over the Illini.
Ohio State, which has advanced to the tournament championship
game in four of the last five years, was bailed out by Jared
Sullinger and some stingy defense.
Sullinger struggled mightily from the field, missing 10 of 12
shots, but finished 16 of 18 from the foul line. The Big Ten
freshman of the year had 20 points and 18 rebounds – one shy of the
tournament record – and made all 10 of his free throws in
The Buckeyes attempted just two field goals in the extra
session, scoring 12 of their 15 points from the charity stripe.
Their free-throw shooting also proved to be key in their first
meeting of the season with the Wolverines.
In a 68-64 win at Michigan on Jan. 12, Ohio State was held
without a field goal for the last 8:36 – its last 11 points came on
free throws. The Wolverines did a good job of frustrating
Sullinger, limiting him to 12 points and seven boards while forcing
a season-worst six turnovers from the freshman.
Sullinger played much better in Columbus three weeks later,
finishing with 19 points and 15 rebounds, but the Buckeyes trailed
by six points early in the second half before pulling away for a
Ohio State has won four straight in the series, which includes a
69-68 victory in last season’s tournament quarterfinals on Evan
Turner’s 37-foot shot at the buzzer.
The Buckeyes advanced Friday despite shooting 32.2 percent to
match their season low.
“Obviously we never got into our flow offensively, and when
shots weren’t falling, I was fine with that,” coach Thad Matta
said. “But hopefully we can shoot the ball a little better
Matta could tolerate the offensive struggles because his defense
played so well. Ohio State, 11th in the nation in scoring defense
at 59.8 points, held the Wildcats to 37.3 percent shooting and
outrebounded them 48-27.
“We’ve just got to keep playing defense like we did (Friday),”
Sullinger said. “Our defense carried us. We didn’t really hit
shots, so we obviously can win without hitting shots and just keep
Michigan’s defense also stepped up late Friday.
Trailing 51-39 with just over eight minutes remaining, the
Wolverines forced five turnovers and held the Illini to 1-of-8
shooting the rest of the way.
“We just came out and just stayed hungry and just maintained our
focus and poise on the defensive end and the offensive end,”
freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said.
Hardaway finished with 16 points, while Darius Morris scored 17
for the Wolverines, winners of nine of 12.
“We’ve got some confidence going into (Saturday’s) game,”
Michigan guard Zack Novak said. “(The Buckeyes are) having a great
year, got a really good team, but we feel like we’re playing pretty
good right now.”
The Wolverines are in the semifinals for the first time since
2004. They haven’t advanced to the title game since winning the
inaugural Big Ten tournament in 1998.