Ohio State earned a big home win over Michigan this afternoon and pacing the 64-49 victory with 17 points and 12 rebounds was not Jared Sullinger nor William Buford. Instead, it was the lesser known Lenzelle Smith, Jr. who led the Buckeyes in both points and rebounds during a great team effort orchestrated by coach Thad Matta's starting five.
Smith, Jr. was 6 of 12 from the field and dominated the boards with 8 offensive rebounds. One one play in the first half, Smith flew in to rebound a miss, then grabbed his own rebound after the put-back went awry, then was fouled during a successful put-back try to get three points the old-fashioned way. His tireless hustle was imperative in Ohio State's dominance of the glass. As a team, they grabbed 14 offensive rebounds compared to only 6 for the Wolverines.
While Jared Sullinger did not dominate in this game against Michigan's shallow front line, he did appear overpowering at times. Sullinger was able to plow through Michigan defenders on his way to the bucket on a number of occasions. However, he only was 5-11 from the field with 13 points, which is a testament to Michigan's eager ability to double team and force the ball from the big guy's hands. Sullinger countered this strategy with some sound, if sometimes awkward, passes out of the post that only resulted in a single turnover.
Wiliam Buford had and Deshaun Thomas each had 12 points for Ohio State, who was also boosted by 4 assists from point guard Aaron Craft. As usual, Matta did not experiment much with his bench players. Evan Ravenel had 3 points in 14 minutes, but that was it for Buckeyes not included in the starting lineup.
Michigan's bench didn't fare too much better. Evan Smotrycz has the potential to be a versatile scorer, but he only scored 3 points on 1 of 6 shooting and had trouble defending Sullinger when he was unfortunate enough to draw the assignment. The seldom used Black McLimans came on and hit a three-pointer when coach John Beilein tried to shake up his lineup in the second half.
Starring for the Wolverines were their usual heroes, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. The latter was 3 of 5 on twos but only 2 of 7 on three-pointers. The young Hardaway would better serve his team by driving to the basket more, but he continues to settle for outside shots when he is not even a great jump shooter. Hardaway finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Trey Burke continues to be a complete package on offense. The freshman made some amazing passes to set up easy buckets mostly for Jordan Morgan, and also was adept from long range with 3 of 6 shooting from three-point land. Burke scored 13 points for the game with 5 assists and 5 turnovers.
Overall, this was a pretty solid game from a defensive perspective. Ohio State is already great at not fouling on defense, but today was just ridiculous. Michigan did not attempt a foul shot until Hardaway was fouled by Sullinger with 2:34 left in the game and Ohio State was leading by 12. It's not as though Michigan was on fire from three-point range (only 32% on 8 of 25), so they simply had to do a better job of getting to the line.
On the other side, Michigan did a great job of getting the ball out of Sullinger's hands, but Sullinger's lack of mistakes combined with Smith's amazing offensive rebounding was enough to make up for Ohio State only shooting 43% from the field.
Next up, Ohio State takes on Wisconsin this Saturday in what should be a great game from Madison. Michigan goes home to prepare for a rematch with Indiana on Wednesday. The two squads played in Bloomington back on January 5 in a game Indiana pulled out 73-71.