Buford Keys Emotional Comeback Win over Michigan
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — This Ohio State team just refuses to lose.
While the rest of the Big Ten is beating itself up all around them, the Buckeyes seem impervious to the fact they now have a three-game lead in the conference standings following Thursday’s 62-53 win over Michigan.
“I think that goes to our senior leaders and our coaching staff for reminding us that it’s one game at a time,” said freshman point guard Aaron Craft.
“Just try and take it one game at a time and not get too complacent.”
The Buckeyes (23-0, 10-0 Big Ten) trailed 26-23 at halftime on their own floor, but once again, they refused to lose. The Wolverines (13-10, 3-7) held them to just 36-percent shooting in the first half, while forcing 10 turnovers, but they could not finish off the last unbeaten in college basketball.
“Honestly, I give Michigan a lot of credit. We were not as sharp as we needed to be in the first half,” Matta said after the game.
“We gave up turnovers that lead to easy baskets. It’s unacceptable. We weren’t as sharp, and transition-wise we weren’t as good as we needed to be. A couple of those turnovers were very uncharacteristic of us.”
The Wolverines scored a number of easy baskets in transition in the first half, but things were a little different in the second half.
Despite being under the weather, junior William Buford connected on a pair of threes early in the second half and Craft drew a key charge at the other end, as the Buckeyes used a 12-4 run to tie the game 32-all with 15:49 to play.
“Every shot I shoot, I expect it to go in,” said Buford, who also tallied 19 points and nine rebounds in Ohio State’s 68-64 win in Ann Arbor.
“It just went down in the second half.”
Buford connected on another three minutes later, as Ohio State took command of the game with a 12-1 run that made 44-36 with 9:37 to play. Buford scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, but it was Jared Sullinger who closed out an emotional victory for Matta’s team.
Though he scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the earlier meeting between these two teams, Sullinger was frustrated by Michigan’s defense in Ann Arbor. Matta said he thought a couple cheerleaders came out to help guard him, but OSU’s star freshman was much better in the second meeting.
He pounded his way inside to the tune of 19 points and 15 rebounds, going 7-of-10 from the floor. He missed four big free throws down the stretch, but his efforts inside helped to get the Buckeyes in the double-bonus by the 6:46 mark of the second half.
“When you’re guarding the length and quickness they have, and Jared Sullinger, it’s hard to guard without fouling,” Michigan Head Coach John Beilein said.
“You’re looking at the No. 1 team in the country. Jared Sullinger is a freshman but an unusual freshman. It’s incredible. He’s hard to guard and you can get to foul trouble.”
The Wolverines got 15 points from Tim Hardaway Jr. and 12 from Darius Morris, but they shot only 39-percent from the floor in the second half and were 6-of-19 from behind the arc for the game.
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