Second Half Swoon Costs Buckeyes Against Michigan
By Rob Ogden
If the games were 30 minutes long, the Buckeyes might top the Big Ten standings. But to win in this league, you have to play 40.
The Buckeyes failed once again to do that Tuesday night, and fell to rival Michigan 70-60 inside Value City Arena – the Wolverines' first win in Columbus since 2003.
It was a familiar feeling for the sold out crowd on hand, who had already witnessed Ohio State surrender second-half leads to Iowa and Penn State this season.
Alarming, but not surprising, was the Buckeyes' 3-for-20 shooting from 3-point range. Senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. was the only Ohio State player to knock down a 3-point attempt.
But even more alarming for Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft was the rebounding disparity. The Buckeyes were out-rebounded 39-27 and allowed 14 offensive rebounds.
Asked which statistic – the 3-pointers or the rebounds – troubled him more, Craft didn't hesitate.
"It's the offensive rebounds," he said. "We've done a pretty good job of that the last few games and for some reason we didn't do it tonight. They got them when they needed them."
The Buckeyes started off hot, and held a double-digit lead with 6:25 reaming in the first half, but didn't make another field goal before the break, and had their lead cut to 30-26 at the half. Michigan cut Ohio State's lead to 1, but forward LaQuinton Ross was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with one second remaining. He extended the lead to four.
The Buckeyes dominated in the paint in the opening minutes as Ross presented a mismatch for the Michigan defense. 16 of the Buckeyes' first 17 points came in the paint. Ross finished with a game-high 24 points and added 7 rebounds.
Michigan shot only 32 percent from the floor in the first half, but bumped that up to 52 percent in the second half.
Ohio State led 37-29 with 17:10 to play and 43-37 with 12:11 remaining. But the Wolverines went on a 12-0 run, and led 49-43 with 9:16 left.
The Buckeyes pulled to within 51-50 with 6:22 to play, but would get no closer. Michigan had only 11 second-chance points, but the Wolverines were able to tire out Ohio State's defense has they grabbed offensive boards and reset the shot clock.
"They got a couple big rebounds and we had to defend again and defend again," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "When that ball's bouncing, 50/50 ball, you've got to come up with it. When that happens, you've got to come up with the ball."
But the Buckeyes rarely did.
"At the end of the day, they just wanted it more," Ross said. "We missed a lot of box outs. We knew coming into the game they were going to try to rebound. At the end of the day they just wanted it more."
Michigan point guard Derrick Walton Jr, who's listed at 6-foot-1, had 10 rebounds.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. was Ohio State's only other player in double figures with 13 points. Michigan's bench outscored Ohio State's 18-4, and Amedeo Della Valle and Marc Loving combined for only five minutes on the floor.
As he has said after seemingly every loss this season, Craft said the Buckeyes weren't the tougher basketball team down the stretch.
"That's what hurts the most," he said.
"Today we didn't have it. As much as this may hurt, we have to move forward. We have to find a way to continue to get better. There's still a lot to play for."
With Ohio State's three-game winning streak snapped, the longest active streak in the conference now belongs to Wisconsin at two games.
That's just life in the Big Ten, Matta said.
"Every night is a war," he said. "What you see in this league now is a bad three or four-minute stretch can cost you. You've got to find ways to make the plays. Tonight we couldn't make the plays we had to make."
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