Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sullinger, Buckeyes outlast Michigan

COLUMBUS — No one said it was going to be easy.

Ohio State’s men’s basketball team on Thursday went to the locker room at halftime on the downside of the score for only the fourth time this season.

The Buckeyes at one point went six minutes without a field goal. They were an extremely mediocre 15 of 25 from the free throw line.

But through it all, the top-ranked team in the nation survived a 62-53 victory over visiting Michigan for its 23rd consecutive win of the season in front of a sellout crowd of 18,809 in Value City Arena.

"We know everybody is going to come after us," said sophomore William Buford, who fought through an upset stomach for 13 points. "We take every team’s best shot."

And still emerge game after game as the victor.

There’s a line of thought out there that the Buckeyes would be best off to lose a game prior to the arrival of March Madness so as to perhaps alleviate a little pressure. Don’t count Coach Thad Matta among that group.

"No, No," Matta said. "I love to win."

Even if things are getting more snug for the Buckeyes, who have won six of their last eight games by five points or fewer.

The game’s big swing occurred early in the second half, courtesy of a 12-2 run by the Buckeyes that turned 34-32 deficit into a 44-36 advantage.

After Michigan’s Jordan Morgan hit a basket, OSU freshman Aaron Craft made a spinning reverse layup. David Lighty added a putback and then Buford hit a smooth triple from the corner for a 43-36 lead.

Lighty split a pair of free throws to complete the run.

While the Wolverines (13-10, 3-7) answered back with a mini run of its own, they never took the lead again.

"In the second half, we just took our intensity to another level," said Sullinger, who had 19 points and 15 rebounds.

It was his 10th double-double of the season.

"We know that it’s Michigan and they were going to give their toughest game," Sullinger continued. "We knew about the rivalry. We just had to take it to another level."

The Wolverines were the team hitting at a higher level in the first half. After the Buckeyes scored the first seven points within the first two minutes of the game, Coach John Beilein’s team regained its composure, but more importantly regained the tempo.

Michigan took a 26-23 lead at the half on a layup by Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Buckeyes shot a miserable 36 percent (9 of 25) from the field in the first 20 minutes, including 25 percent (2 of 8) from the 3-point line.

What stood out the most was OSU’s 10 turnovers at intermission.

I told them we can win the game," Beilein said. "’You’re up in the game and you can play with these guys.’"

Until OSU’s big second-half run.

Once again, the Buckeyes struggled from the free throw line; not just down the stretch, but for the entire game. Sullinger, who along with Jon Diebler played the entire game, was 5 of 11 from the free throw line, while Lighty was 5 of 8.
Diebler and Lighty each had 9 points, with Diebler hitting a 3-pointer for the 39th straight game.

Michigan got a 15-point effort from Hardaway Jr., prompting Beilein to say, "for him to score 15 with David Lighty on him, he had a good day."

Darius Morris, who Matta considers the most improved player in the conference, had 12, with Jordan Morgan scoring 10.

Still, the undefeated trek of the Buckeyes churns on, with Opportunity No. 24 coming Sunday at Minnesota.

Ohio State, who is 10-0 in the conference, has not started 11-0 in league play since doing so in both 1960 and 1962 when the Buckeyes won 11 in a row.

"There’s great players (in college basketball) and there’s great coaches," Matta said. "To be sitting here with 23-0 and 10-0 in the Big Ten is something else."
courtesy of John Kampf



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