First Thoughts - Michigan

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Last updated: 01/13/2013 7:22 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 56-53 Win Over Michigan
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sometimes you've got to fight with whatever you've got around you, and that's what the Buckeyes did in the second half of their win over the previously-undefeated Michigan Wolverines.

Ohio State came out scoring like it was no problem, building a 26-6 lead with 9:27 to play in the first half, and enjoying what the world held in store for them.

The Buckeyes forced turnover after turnover in those first 10 minutes, and held Michigan to just two field goals. It was absolutely stellar defense and it led to pretty stellar offense for Ohio State as well.

But when Michigan went on their run in the second half, and the Buckeye offense stayed in the locker room, there was still the Ohio State defense poking and prodding almost every step of the way.

They were in a second-half fight with the Wolverines and didn't have the use of their offense, but they sure had the use of their defense, and it's a very good thing that they did.

Honestly, 56 points should have never been enough to win this game. Michigan came into the game scoring 80.8 points per game, and Ohio State held them to 30 points below that until Trey Burke's final desperation three-pointer.

Defense won this game for the Buckeyes, and it won't be the last time.

The Joys of Life. In sports, and certainly in basketball, there are few things more entertaining to watch right now than Aaron Craft battle with Trey Burke.

There is little doubt that Burke is one of the best point guards in the nation, if not "the" best. But when it comes to defense, there is absolutely no doubt that when Craft is locked in there is nobody better on defense, and he was certainly locked in today.

You know how cornerbacks like Bradley Roby can get bored when they aren't challenged, I see Craft like that as well. When he's facing a point guard that is simply a tertiary player who brings the ball up and then throws it around the top of the floor, it's easy for him to get distracted with helping out and worrying about other players. But when he has to focus entirely on one player, that player is usually in for his longest night of the year.

As I tweeted during the game, Trey Burke hadn't played this poorly since the last time he played against Aaron Craft. There is no coincidence there.

Throughout his brief career at Michigan, Burke is a 47.5% shooter against everybody but Ohio State. Against the Buckeyes, that percentage drops to 32.6%.

But even as great as Craft is defensively, Burke still scored 15 points, grabbed four rebounds, dished out four assists, and had a Craft-contested step-back three-pointer rim out with 16 seconds to play that would have given the Wolverines the lead.

These are two players who are as good at their specialty as anybody in college basketball, and the fact that they get to match up specifically against eachother is rare, and special.

That Being Said. For as good as Burke is on offense, he was getting abused on defense. When Michigan was playing man-to-man, there was never any reason for the Buckeyes to not simply take Burke off the dribble and go to the basket. Heck, even Deshaun Thomas drove on him.

That Being Said Being Said. John Beilein's decision to play as much man-to-man defense as he did was a boon to the Buckeyes, because when the Wolverines were playing a zone, the Ohio State offense had some struggles.

Not only were the Buckeyes able to take advantage of the man defense, but they were rarely able to take the same advantage of the zone defense. In other words, there were very little positives for Ohio State against Michigan's zone defense. Whenever the Wolverines were running man defense, they were helping the Buckeyes out.

This is going to be an on-going problem for the Buckeyes, who finished 5-15 from three-point territory. (By the way, I happen to subscribe to the Rick Pitino Theory on Three-Point Field Goal Percentage, which says that shooting 33% from three-point territory is acceptable because it results in the same amount of points as 50% from two-point range.)

Only three players knocked down three-point shots for the Buckeyes, but that's not really all that surprising. As long as they can get at least one from Craft and one from Sam Thompson, that not only extends a defense, but also results in six points.

Copy and Paste. I could write these next few paragraphs after every game. It's impossible for me to watch Sam Thompson hit a three-pointer from the wing or hit a driving leaner in the lane and not imagine what he should be like as a senior.

You've got a lot of draft gurus who want to tag LaQuinton Ross with the "Best Pro Prospect" label, but Thompson would get my nod. Anybody can become a good shooter, almost nobody can become the type of athlete that Thompson is.

When he gets his handles and is more consistent with his shot, you're going to see a player that will be able to get any shot he wants. With his ability to finish, defenders are going to have to sag off of him. When they do, a simple jab step dribble will lead to open jumpers more often than not.

Sam Thompson is a work in progress, but from looking at the blueprints, it's easy to imagine the finished product. The key is for him to simply keep working.

Who Would've Thought? Generally, when you think about entertaining basketball, you think about two quality teams running up and down the court scoring basket for basket.

But you have to appreciate the way the Buckeyes run up and down the court defensively. Their halfcourt defense is stifling, and there are so many pesterous hands in the passing lane that seeing an open teammate is only half of the battle.

Quick Thoughts. I rather enjoyed Sam Thompson's interception of a Michigan alley oop attempt. I can't blame him for stopping it before it ever had a chance to happen. You think Pavarotti likes his fans listening to Nickelback at his own concerts? ... Aaron Craft is now 3-1 against Trey Burke, if you're keeping track of that sort of thing. ... I liked what Amir Williams showed early in the game. He was very active on the offensive glass and he helped spark the Buckeyes early on. It was a nice opening act to Evan Ravenel, who helped close the Wolverines out towards the end of the game. The ball went to him down low and he converted. His confidence goes a long way, and it's something that Williams does not yet possess. ... The defensive effort that the Buckeyes got from Deshaun Thomas can't go unmentioned. Matched up with freshman Glenn Robinson III for much of the game, he helped keep Robinson to eight points, which was under his 12.6 point average. Robinson was frustrated throughout much of the game, and Thomas fed on that frustration. ... Ohio State's response when Michigan tied the game at 46-46 with 5:59 to play was spectacular. The Wolverines went nearly the next five minutes without making another field goal. That basket came via a turnover on a bad pass and a Robinson dunk. Their only other field goal came on Burke's three-pointer when the game was essentially over. They locked Michigan down tight. On this day, it was the Wolverine offense that was an endangered species. ... It was another off night for Lenzelle Smith's offense, but he did manage to pull down 10 rebounds for the second-consecutive game, including the most important rebound of the game following Burke's miss with 16 seconds to play. He continues to be the team's best rebounder, and is averaging over eight rebounds per game in Big Ten play. Still, the Buckeyes need his shooting right now just as much as they need his rebounding.

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