First Thoughts - Michigan

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Last updated: 01/29/2012 8:30 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From a 64-49 Win Over Michigan
By Tony Gerdeman

The Wolverines tried to slow things down as much as they could against the Buckeyes, but you can only slow down inevitability for so long.

The slow pace on offense for Michigan only played into Ohio State's defensive prowess, forcing poor shots for most of the game.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, even when the Buckeyes missed a shot, Lenzelle Smith was there to grab the offensive rebound and put it back up and in.

It wasn't a pleasant game to watch, but it showed that Ohio State can play an opponent's game, and beat them at it in the process.

The Buckeyes would prefer to run the ball, but if a team wants to slow it down, obviously Ohio State won't protest.

First Thought -
I have never seen such selfish offensive rebounding in a game as I did in this one. Lenzelle Smith, normally a team player, attacked the offensive glass without regard for his teammates who also might have wanted an offensive rebound.

He finished with eight offensive rebounds, and scored most of Ohio State's 16 second-chance points. He was amazing.

He played the game exactly how it should be played. When a shot goes up, the ball is free for anyone to pull down, and he went out and made sure he was that "anyone".

He went after rebounds with zero concern or respect for Michigan's ability to box out. He stood his ground and the Wolverines had no answer for him. He kept possessions alive, and made Michigan play more defense than they had in them.

He might just be the greatest '21' player in the world.

Repetitive Thought - We talk about this every time out, but I don't think Ohio State's backcourt defense can be talked about enough.

Even when Michigan started the game 5-0, they were fortunate to get shots off because of the Buckeyes' disruptive defense.

I'm not sure anybody else in the nation can put four defensive guards on the court like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson.

Craft had his hands full with Trey Burke, but still managed to play a part in five turnovers for the freshman. When Shannon Scott came in for Craft, he came up with two steals in just four minutes of play.

Lenzelle Smith is as much a pest on defense as he is on the glass. Tim Hardaway Jr. went 2-7 from three-point range as proof of that. When Thompson came in for Smith, he forced a travel from Hardaway on the first possession he saw.

And none of them have completed their sophomore years yet.

Wondering Thought - What's wrong with William Buford?

When he passed up an open three-pointer early in the game, only to drive to the basket and get a charge, it was apparent that something wasn't right today.

At first I chalked it up to confidence, or lack thereof, but throughout the first half he seemed to be missing from the action.

Six turnovers for a shooting guard is unacceptable, and an indication of carelessness. He played better in the second half, finishing the game with 12 points, but he still seems off.

I can understand any of Ohio State's starters disappearing at times, because they have very talented teammates who can sometimes take turns going off. But when you get your opportunities, you should be able to capitalize.

There are few prettier shots in the game than Buford, but he almost seems bored with college basketball anymore. Like four years was one too many for him.

He still scores consistently, but it's not coming as easily for him as it has in the past. For Buford's benefit, and Ohio State's, things need to change if the Buckeyes are going to win it all.

Unhelpful Thought - The help defense from the post today wasn't very effective. When a Wolverine guard would drive, undoubtedly a post player would come over to help, and then the driving guard (usually Trey Burke) would drop a pass off to an open Michigan post player for the basket.

There really was no need to help out. The Buckeye guards can guard, so let them. By helping out, they were actually giving the Michigan guards a place to get rid of the ball instead of forcing a bad shot or bad pass.

The man-to-man defense of this team is a huge reason for its success. Don't take that away by letting go of the only guy who can finish a play.

This changed some in the second half. It led to a few layups, but it also led to offensive players getting too deep into the paint and getting trapped.

Unsettling Thought -
Jared Sullinger took the easy way out for much of the second half. Quick shots from the perimeter aren't exactly the first option for this offense, but he was clearly frustrated by Michigan's double-teaming all day long.

Any time a post player settles for a perimeter jumper instead of backing a defender down, he is settling. Sometimes that's a good thing, but the result doesn't change the message. Sullinger was bothered by the Wolverines' defense.

But only for so long.

He closed the game strong, scoring six quick points to make a nine-point lead a twelve-point lead with under three minutes to play. The Buckeyes cruised from that point on.

He had tired of settling, obviously.

Final Thought - It was an absolute joy to watch Aaron Craft and Trey Burke go at eachother today. Burke's ability to get a shot off from any angle also displayed Craft's ability to defend him from any angle.

It will be fun to watch these guys attack eachother for the next two-plus years.

Unless Burke rightfully decides that it's time for him to head to the NBA after this season, of course.

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