First thoughts: Michigan

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Last updated: 02/06/2013 1:10 AM
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Basketball
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 76-74 Loss at Michigan
By Tony Gerdeman

I'm pretty sure we that just saw the Game of the Year in the Big Ten. Coming in, I wasn't expecting the Buckeyes to win, and depending on whether or not Trey Burke performed well, I wasn't even necessarily expecting a close game.

However, the maturity with which Ohio State responded to each Michigan run was absolutely stellar. This game never got too big for them. Even Dick Vitale noted that the Buckeyes kept punching Michigan in the face after each big Blue basket.

This was a game featuring two teams who are so familiar with eachother that they both know when the other's blood sugar is low. It was a 45-minute fight, and not even Vitale escaped without a few injuries.

If we can get two more games between Ohio State and Michigan like the previous two, then we should consider 2013 a good year for basketball. It still wouldn't qualify as a good year for referees, however.

Like a Ross. Mark it in your life journals, friends, because this was the game where LaQuinton Ross became a problem for the rest of the Big Ten.

Ross entered the game wanting to shoot, you could see it in his face. However, he remained patient and didn't force anything. When he finally did get a look, he made the most of it. Then he kept making the most of everything else as well.

He played with as much determination as we have seen all season long. It was as if he was being remotely controlled by Lenzelle Smith. He took the ball to the basket, he was strong underneath the boards, and he simply played basketball. Enough with the thought process, he was back in his element.

Watching this game, I really got the feeling that we will see this LaQuinton Ross the rest of the season, especially if he is going to grab five offensive rebounds every night. The simple fact that he took the ball to the basket and was looking to score while the Buckeyes were down by two late in the second half tells you all you need to know about where his confidence in his game is right now.

Playing Favorites. I like college football more than college basketball, but I'm not sure there's anything in sports more enjoyable to watch than Aaron Craft versus Trey Burke. It's everything that is right with sports and competition, provided you like highly-skilled slugfests.

They never fail to deliver, even as they are being stifled, swatted and swiped. It's the game played as it should be, every second is spent in physical and psychological battle. Each just as exhausting as the other. How can you not enjoy this?

20/20 Vision. The first 20 minutes of basketball for Amir Williams were not good. He did nothing on offense or defense, and his opposite number Mitch McGary was busy scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds.

Williams frequently lost track of McGary, which led to various layups and putbacks. It made me think that McGary is going to have his way with Williams over these next two-plus years.

And then something happened in the second 20 minutes that had me doubting my own doubts. Williams scored nine points in the second half, showing strength that I didn't know he had. Consecutive dunks with defenders all around him may have been his shining moment so far at Ohio State.

His defense and rebounding were excellent as well, as he made several key plays, including a blocked shot of Tim Hardaway Jr., which happened to follow a three-point play on an aggressive play by Williams.

His overall game in the second half was so out of the ordinary that I suggested on Twitter that maybe he and LaQuinton Ross had split a keg of deer antlers before the game.

The Forgotten Man. I can sometimes forget to write about Deshaun Thomas because I feel like everything that he does is expected. When he does something extraordinary, it still feels ordinary because we've seen him do it before.

It would be like me opening this piece by talking about this amazing fire in the sky known as "The Sun". It's the Sun, it heats the Earth and keeps us from spinning off out of control into space. But more often than not, we just get annoyed by it when it's trying to keep us from sleeping in. In other words, we just take it for granted.

It was good to know that I'm not the only one who takes Thomas for granted, because his teammates did as well in overtime. Thomas didn't take a single shot in overtime, and he wasn't even really part of the offense. Granted, the Buckeyes didn't really have much of an offense in overtime, but I'm guessing Thomas could have helped.

I will bet you 1,000 internet dollars that the next time Ohio State goes to overtime, Deshaun Thomas will get a shot up, provided he has not already fouled out. Even if he has fouled out, I'd still be willing to put 500 internet dollars on it.

Same As It Ever Was. Ohio State finished the game just like they started it, turning the ball over way too much. The Buckeyes only got two shots up in the first 4:05 of overtime, which is completely unacceptable on every single level.

There were too many empty possessions at key moments in this game. Ohio State only had 11 turnovers, but just about each one was a killer.

It also didn't help that the Buckeyes gave up open look after open look from three-point range. Michigan finished 14-24 (58.3%), making each empty Buckeye possession even more damaging.

Quick Thoughts. If teams defend the Buckeyes, scoring becomes pretty hard to do. It reminds me of a Wisconsin offense, with Deshaun Thomas playing the role of Alondo Tucker. ... I really liked the spark that Shannon Scott gave to the offense, but then that's nothing new. He looks like he might be regressing a little bit in terms of his confidence in finishing his drives though. ... Yes, the refs had some very bad moments, both ways. Ohio State was the beneficiary of a few questionable calls, but those were all made up for in the closing moments when Aaron Craft got called for a foul as he was being held while going after a steal. ... Speaking of Craft, you probably want to know if Craft got fouled on his final shot? Yes. However, I don't think he should have ever attacked the basket like that. He should have slowed down and kicked it out for an open look from three to win the game. ... Holding Michigan to 76 points after 45 minutes with the Wolverines hitting 14-24 from three-point range is pretty impressive. However, much like Sam Thompson's blocked shot of a Tim Hardaway Jr. dunk attempt, people won't remember a defensive effort that saw Hardaway attempt unlimited open three-pointers.

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