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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 03/13/2011 0:22 AM

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Men's Basketball
The Turning Point - Big Ten Tournament -  Michigan
By Tony Gerdeman

The Buckeyes opened the second half against Michigan on a 7-0 run, and soon after that they were enjoying a 38-27 lead with just over sixteen minutes left to play.

The game was seemingly over. The only thing left was to play out the string. except nobody told the Wolverines.

Over the next six minutes or so, Michigan went on an 18-9 run to cut the Buckeye lead to just two points at 47-45. The final basket coming from a Tim Hardaway Jr. finger roll, capping an 8-2 run and forcing Thad Matta to call a 30-second timeout.

And it's a good thing he did.

Michigan had just scored 18 points in a little over six minutes. If you prorate that out over the course of a game, you're looking at around 120 points scored. Clearly, that's not acceptable.

Matta used every last one of those 30 seconds to remind his team about a fancy new concept called 'defense', and funnily enough, it worked.

For the next five minutes following the timeout, the Wolverines went 0-9 from the field and scored zero points. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, went 6-8 from the field, including a put-back on one of their two misses.

Thad Matta's 30-second timeout, and concurrent lesson on the blessings of defense, would prove to be the turning point in the Buckeye win.

“I think the biggest thing was just that our guys defended, and continued to defend,” Matta said.

“We gave them a couple of long offensive rebounds to start the second half. But we got an energy going offensively. And when I say energy, just a pace about us. We were able to get out and get some baskets.”

Along with an increased defensive attack, the Buckeyes were the benefactors of a Michigan offense that suddenly lost its patience.

“We get so amped up,” said Wolverine coach John Beilein.

"We've got to get the ball down the floor, we didn't get many points in transition today, and we really wanted to do that. I had on the board today, 'you've got to know the sweet spot of making a play' and 'being a player'. And so there were some times there we just tried too hard, especially offensively, without showing probably the patience we needed to have."

“When you're playing against Ohio State, you have to either make your own breaks, or have some breaks and really play through that, and that's where they got on the 16-0 run. It just started with a couple of tough breaks.”

Those couple of early tough breaks were bad, but the Buckeyes seemed to take it to another level after Michigan's Jordan Morgan and Ohio state's Jared Sullinger got tangled up after a play. William Buford came over to help his teammate out, and got a bit of a forearm from Morgan for his troubles. That was probably a mistake on Morgan's part, it would turn out. When the scuffle happened, the score was just 52-45. The Buckeyes were already on a roll, and this incident certainly did the Wolverines no favors.

Aaron Craft hit a three on Ohio State's ensuing possession, and then Buford hit three straight shots to stretch the Buckeyes' lead to 61-45.

Did the minor fracas with Morgan fire Buford up any?

“A little bit,” he admitted.

“We were just being competitive, my teammates were able to give me the ball in the spots where I could knock them down and they were just falling for me.

Aaron Craft would make two free throws after Buford's six-point statement before Michigan would finally stop the Buckeye run at 16-0.

“The defensive end,” David Lighty said when asked what sparked the run.

“We got some steals and some deflections, and it allows us to fastbreak. And I think that's the type of team that we are, and when we are out on the break, I think we're at our best.”

Michigan would certainly have to agree. Sort of.

“We might have gotten a little selfish offensively, didn't keep our heads mentally,” said Wolverine Stu Douglass.

Keeping your heads mentally might not be important to everybody, but it's certainly important to Thad Matta. And it's why he called a timeout to talk to his team after Michigan cut the once eleven-point Buckeye lead down to two points, refusing to give the momentum to the Maize and Blue.

He refocused his group and re-established his team's main purpose—defense. From that point on—until the final 97 seconds, anyway—they didn't stray from it, and it won them the game.


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