Five Key Plays: Michigan at Ohio State

Alejandro Zúñiga
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Following his team’s 71-52 loss to Ohio State on Tuesday night, Michigan coach John Beilein said he’d watch film of the game before the Wolverines arrived back in Ann Arbor. We watched the tape, too. Here are Five Key Plays from the blowout loss.

1) Zak Irvin gets hot early

Michigan held a slim lead at the 12-minute mark of the first half, thanks largely to Zak Irvin’s 3-for-3 start from the floor.

The sophomore forward’s first bucket came on a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock on the Wolverines’ opening possession. Irvin got free at the top of the key thanks to some loose  defending from Ohio State’s Marc Loving and buried the contested look.

Later in the half, Irvin hit his most encouraging bucket. As Spike Albrecht and Mark Donnal worked the pick-and-roll on the right side of the court, Muhammad-Ali Abur-Rahkman and Irvin were free outside the arc on the left. Albrecht made a jump pass to Abur-Rahkman, who smartly delivered to Irvin in the corner. The forward took a dribble to beat a defender, then knocked down the baseline jumper.

A minute later, a confident Irvin hit another three-pointer, this time from NBA range. Faking a cut into the lane and helped by off-ball screens from Caris LeVert and then Donnal, Irvin swished the trey to put the Wolverines up, 12-9.

But Irvin made only one more field goal the rest of the way, but he still finished as Michigan’s second-highest scorer behind LeVert.

2) Buckeyes dominate offensive glass in the first half

The Wolverines allowed Ohio State to rebound 44% of their misses in the first half, part of what helped them jump to a 15-point lead at the break.

In the first clip, Irvin does a good job contesting a three-pointer from an inbounds pass, but Loving managed to outreach LeVert and Walton to tip the ball back to midcourt. Irvin overcommitted chasing for the loose ball, and Ricky Doyle took off down the court expecting the forward to retrieve the ball. The result was a five-on-three, and D’Angelo Russell fired a no-look pass for an easy dunk.

Midway through the first half, Russell airballed a three, but no one put a body on Trey McDonald — Walton was closest — as the forward grabbed the “rebound” for an open layup. Minutes later, another missed trey could’ve resulted in an empty possession for Ohio State; instead, Jae’Sean Tate boxed out Aubrey Dawkins, and Doyle was slow to react as the Buckeye freshman scored on a putback.

Tate then made a similar play over Irvin, and Ohio State began to stretch its lead thanks to its eight first-half offensive boards.

3) Walton commits second foul

Walton picked up a touch foul off the ball with 10 minutes left in the first half, putting Beilein and the Wolverines into a bind.

The Michigan guard appeared to momentarily grab Russell’s arm as the Buckeyes prepared to inbound. As is his custom, Beilein immediately pulled Walton in favor of Albrecht, and the coach was forced to play freshmen longer in the opening 20 minutes.

Walton was Michigan’s first-choice option to guard Russell and, according to Beilein, is the Wolverines’ best defender. Until Walton returned with about 3:30 to play until halftime, Ohio State outscored Michigan, 16-6.

“I don’t think we’re down 15 at half if Derrick’s out there playing the whole time,” Beilein said after the game.

4) Sloppy turnovers doom Michigan

The Wolverines committed several sloppy, unforced turnovers Tuesday night, and perhaps none was more frustrating than this sequence with five minutes left until halftime.

After getting the ball from an inbounds pass, Sam Thompson hit a contested jumper over three defenders. Instead of jogging back down the court — or even pretending as if he were going to — Thompson stood inside the charge circle and waited.

LeVert made a lazy inbounds pass toward Albrecht, and Thompson intercepted it and threw the ball to Shannon Scott for a layup.

That put the Buckeyes up by double-digits for the first time, and Michigan — which committed eight first-half turnovers — didn’t threaten again.

5) Buckeyes run Wolverines out of gym to start second half

Ohio State scored the first 13 points after halftime to eliminate any possibility of a Michigan comeback. It was just as ugly as it sounds.

Three minutes into the half, Walton missed a difficult stepback jumper as the shot clock expired, but Irvin made a nice play — running from the top of the key to knock the ball out of Russell’s hands — to get the ball to Donnal.

Instead of passing back to Irvin down low, Donnal dished to LeVert, who turned down a three-pointer to drive to the rim and attempted a wild, reverse layup that didn’t even hit the rim. (Thompson clearly fooled LeVert into thinking he was contesting the layup. LeVert actually could’ve scored on the most routine of layups, as Thompson ultimately attempted to draw a charge with his head under the rim.)

Thirty seconds later, Walton did well to close out on a corner three, which missed, but Amir Williams grabbed the weakside rebound and backed down Donnal for a layup. On the ensuing possession, Irvin’s baseline pass was intercepted by Russell, who split two defenders in transition and beat LeVert to the rim as he went coast-to-coast for a layup.

A Thompson steal and highlight-reel dunk on the next possession made it 47-24, and the game was all but over with more than 15 minutes to play.

  • Wayman Britt

    Not fun to watch these plays again. Man! is Zak inconsistent. Starts out like a first team Big Tenner than fades to a JV player.