Photos: Dustin Johnston
Michigan was able to overcome a lackluster start against Minnesota with a dramatic comeback in the conference quarterfinals but Ohio State didn’t afford the Wolverines a similar luxury in the semifinal. The Buckeyes set the tone early, feeding the ball to Jared Sullinger and letting the All-American go to work. Sullinger scored eight of Ohio State’s first 10 points and helped the Buckeyes to an early 16-3 lead. The Buckeyes would never look back and things would never get better for the Wolverines.
Foul trouble, atypical turnovers, dreadful perimeter shooting and missed layups were just the start of Michigan’s problems. John Beilein said after the game that Ohio State played “as well as he’s seen a college team play” and at least a majority of that dominance was on the defensive end. Ohio State has now defended the Wolverines better than any other team on Michigan’s schedule, twice. The Buckeyes held the Wolverines to just .82 points per possession of scoring output with a 35% effective field goal percentage and forced turnovers on 27% of Michigan’s offensive possessions. All three of those statistics are among the one or two worst of the year and there’s only so many ways to say that Michigan played its worst game of the season.
For whatever reason, Michigan just didn’t have it today. A couple early breaks didn’t go their way – tough Ohio State makes, 50-50 balls and fouls, and missed open looks – and the Wolverines allowed the bad breaks to snowball. Ohio State was the better team, a team that could be peaking heading into the NCAA tournament, and thumped the Wolverines for a solid 40 minutes.
It’s discouraging to enter the NCAA tournament on the heels of your worst performance the season but Michigan doesn’t have a choice. Selection Sunday needs to rejuvenate and refocus this team heading into a Thursday or Friday NCAA tournament tilt. The Wolverines are 8-0 following losses and should have a manageable to draw to open tournament play – I don’t have a certification in bracketology but this shouldn’t drop the Wolverines off the 3-seed line. Conference tournaments generally don’t have much correlation to NCAA tournament results. For every 2011 UConn there’s a 2010 Michigan State that gets bounced from the first round and makes a Final Four run.
Photo: Dustin Johnston
Individual performances were underwhelming across the board so we’ll save the bullets. Trey Burke played the worst game of his career, scoring five points on 1-of-11 shooting with eight turnovers to four assists. Beilein and Burke insisted that tired legs weren’t an issue but Burke just never managed to find a groove of rhythm, something he attributed to Ohio State bracketing ball screens. One poor performance out of 32, it’s tough not to give him a pass.
Corey Person matched Stu Douglass as Michigan’s No. 3 scorer and it was just that kind of day. Matt Vogrich played with great energy, rebounding well, picking up a steal and doing a good job of finishing around the basket. He remains a potential x-factor in NCAA tournament play. Jordan Morgan was dominated by Sullinger, totaling just three points on 1-of-5 shooting with three turnovers and numerous misses around the basket. Zack Novak hit a pair of threes and had a pair of offensive put backs, providing his usaul effort, but he is also a big reason that Michigan has no answer for Deshaun Thomas (47 points in last two games versus Michigan). Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but four offensive rebounds is an encouraging statistic even if he failed to grab a defensive rebound and he did attack the basket and get to the free throw line.