It was no secret that a Michigan upset in Columbus would require a nearly perfect performance. The Wolverines battled and remained within striking distance for a majority of the game but were far from perfect. The Michigan offense never gained traction and the Buckeyes outlasted Michigan with their stifling defense and a dominating performance on the offensive glass to cruise to a 15 point home victory.
Michigan’s offense could never find any consistency as it scored just .85 points per possession, well below its previous season low of .94 points per trip at Virginia. The Wolverines had just a 43.4% effective field goal percentage – 39% on twos, 32% on threes – due to their struggles to finish around the basket. Michigan’s interior difficulties were magnified by the fact that the Wolverines didn’t attempt a free throw until the 2:33 mark in the second half. Two point shooting has been an unexpected positive for the Wolverines this season, often helping to overcome inconsistent three point shooting, but this is an Ohio State defense that is allowing Big Ten opponents to make just 40% of their twos.
Michigan’s defense did a lot of things well, including limiting Jared Sullinger to 13 points on 11 shots, but was unable to hold its ground on the defensive glass. Ohio State rebounded 43% of its missed shots and turned those offensive rebounds in 16 second chance points. Despite limiting Ohio State’s stars, Lenzelle Smith Jr. grabbed eight offensive rebounds by himself and scored 17 points. Clearly the more aggressive and athletic team, the Buckeyes attempted 18 free throws which helped them overcome subpar shooting – 51% on twos and 20% on threes – to produce 1.10 points per trip on the game.
The Wolverines experimented with a number of zone looks and had mixed success. The 2-3 appeared to be most effective, slowing Ohio State in the first half, but the Buckeyes were very effective against the 1-3-1. While the zones forced Ohio State into some tough field goal attempts, they also could explain some of Michigan’s poor rebounding.
Ohio State has won 38 games in a row at home for a reason and a loss at Value City is far from shocking as this is likely the toughest game on Michigan’s schedule. On one hand it’s encouraging that Michigan played poorly and still had a puncher’s chance in the game. The Wolverines led for stretches of the first half, were down just one in the second and threatened to make a run down the stretch. On the other hand, it’s disappointing because Michigan had some chances but missed opportunities convert open looks or grab defensive rebounds. Coincidentally, the Wolverines’ fatal flaws in this game – two point shooting and defensive rebounding – are arguably the two strongest statistics on their seasonal resume.
The Wolverines earned a split despite playing two games on the road for the week. That’s acceptable but the upcoming week could be equally as difficult. First up is a home game against Indiana followed by a Sunday trip to the Breslin Center. A sweep of those games would re-establish Michigan as a legitimate Big Ten title threat, a split likely keeps the Wolverines about where they are while a two loss week would pose questions and push Michigan much further toward the cloudy mid-section of the Big Ten.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway hit some shots, took a charge and played pretty well but he still took two or three forced threes that were essentially wasted possessions. He was Michigan’s leading scorer with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting but I’d like to see Michigan get him more involved inside the arc. Good things happen when the Wolverines get Hardaway the ball on the curl but he needs to be a little stronger with his ball handling when he’s slashing to the hoop. Hardaway seems to be figuring things out, slowly but surely, and seems to be playing with more confidence than we saw two weeks ago.
- Trey Burke: Playing against Aaron Craft’s physical defense is a chore unlike many others and while Burke struggled at times, he also made plenty of big plays. Finishing with 13 points on 5-of-11 (3-6 3pt) shooting with five assists and five turnovers, Burke’s performance was a bit of a mixed bag. The turnovers were frustrating but without Burke’s big threes this is game could have turned into a blowout.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan did a solid job on Sullinger and made himself available for some clean looks for Burke. He was 4-of-7 on the day but Michigan just can’t afford for him to miss out on easy looks when he hesitates around the hoop instead of going up immediately. He was also limited to just eight minutes in the second half after getting in foul trouble.
- Stu Douglass: After playing one of his best games of the season at Purdue, Douglass struggled in Columbus. He had three turnovers to one assist and was just 3-of-9 (1-5 3pt) for seven points on the night.
- Zack Novak: Novak was a non-factor in the game. He struggled with fouls and was 0-for-4 from the floor. This game was the first time Novak was held scoreless since November of 2010.
- Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz is still searching for his shot as he was 1-of-6 (1-4 3pt) on the game and had just one rebound in 18 minutes. He needs to be an efficient scoring option because he’s not an impact defender. If he can hit shots while he’s on the floor, that’s a change of pace that you can live with.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich grabbed two rebounds and provided a bit of energy for Michigan in just six minutes of action.
- Blake McLimans: McLimans is probably Michigan’s best screener and he also knocked down one of his two three point attempts. His weakness remains on the glass as he didn’t grab a rebound in eight minutes of play.
- Colton Christian: Christian was thrown into action when Novak and Smotrycz both picked up four fouls and provided some energy, including a couple of strong rebounds, but is a liability offensively.