Big Comeback Propels Buckeyes to 2-0 Big Ten Start
Ohio State, less than 48 hours removed from a big road win at Wisconsin, dug out of a huge first half hole, rallying to defeat Michigan 71-62 to move to 2-0 in Big Ten play and 7-3 overall. It was a game of big runs on both sides as Michigan could do no wrong early turning a 6 point lead at the 8 minute mark into a 16 point advantage just 5 minutes later, utilizing their quickness and hot shooting from deep to build a big lead. That lead quickly stretched to 20 and it looked like it would be a tough night for Ohio State. Just when you thought they were out of it and mentally exhausted from the quick turnaround, a Keita Bates-Diop 3, combined with a foul in the post put Kaleb Wesson to the stripe and he buried both and the Buckeyes in one possession cut the lead to 15. A thunderous slam from Jae’Sean Tate from the right baseline capped off a 7-0 run that left Ohio State with momentum but still trailing 43-30 as both teams went to the locker room.
The momentum carried over into the second half as a quick 5-0 run cut the Michigan lead to just 8, forcing coach John Beilein to take a timeout with just under 18 minutes remaining to try an stem the tide. That didn’t happen. Keyed by suffocating defense, Ohio State kept the foot on the gas and heading into the under 16 timeout, the lead was cut to just 5. When Michigan finally did hit a 3 from the left corner, it ended a 16-0 run spanning both halves and had cut the lead to just 4. The Buckeyes finally took their first lead of the game at the 12:29 mark on Bates-Diop’s two free throws and that lead was stretched to 5 with 9 minutes to go, forcing Michigan to call another timeout. Each team traded baskets before Michigan went on a 9-0 run of their own, turning the Buckeye 5 point lead into a 4 point deficit. That lead would be short lived as Ohio State clamped down on defense again and after a Tate runner in the lane got the Buckeyes within two, a Kam Williams jumper with just under 4 minutes to go tied the game and the Buckeyes would not trail again. The rest of the damage by Ohio State came at the free throw line, burying 11 of their final 12 attempts and playing lock down defense to secure the win. Bates-Diop led Ohio State with 18 points and 9 rebounds and C.J. Jackson, who once again came off the bench, added 17 and Tate chipped in 14 for the winners. Michigan, who was led by Moritz Wagner’s 14 shot just 17% from the floor in the second half as Ohio State ramped up the intensity, not only guarding better on the perimeter, but frustrating Michigan with active hands in the post as well. Ohio State also did a much better job taking care of the ball in the second half, turning it over just 3 times compared to 7 in the opening 20 minutes.
I’ll take a show of hands from those of you who thought Ohio State would be sitting at 2-0 and tied for first in the Big Ten going into January. I bet even the most die-hard Buckeye fans wearing scarlet and gray glasses wouldn’t have expected this, but that’s exactly what we have. This is a fun basketball team to watch. They play with tremendous energy and have no quit in them. It’s a refreshing style of basketball after the last few years of having some complacency in the program. There will be some ups and downs with this team because it is a young group but enjoy what they have done and will continue to do as the season progresses. For now, enjoy first place Buckeye nation, it may not last all season but it’s fun being back on top again, if only for a few more weeks.
The Buckeyes head back out of conference for the rest of December, hosting the William and Mary Tribe on Saturday in the Schott. Tip for that game is high noon.
– Jason Harris