On Tuesday evening, the Ohio State Buckeyes headed up north to battle against the Michigan Wolverines in what figured to be an intense battle on both sides. Both teams had struggled significantly over the last month or so, but had recently bounced back. It also marked Juwan Howard’s first game against the Buckeyes as the Michigan’s head coach.
The game itself was a sloppy one. Both teams struggled to hit open shots. Kaleb Wesson led the way for Ohio State early on, but Michigan got just enough from Franz Wagner and company to stay in it. In the second half, things remained close until Ohio State hit a few buckets late and benefitted from a foul call on Zavier Simpson to grab a narrow 61-58 road win to beat the Wolverines.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Boy, that was sloppy.
Generally speaking, I hate writing sections like this. It usually comes off as uninspired and doesn’t really do anything to offer anyone insight into the game. But it needs to be said after Tuesday’s game. These teams were downright sloppy on Tuesday night.
Yes, some of the sloppiness was a byproduct of some quality defensive play, but the majority of it came out of self-inflicted mistakes. Players missed easy looks, turned the ball over, missed free throws, and failed to finish on rebounds. If either of the team’s had played their best game, they would have walked away with an easy win.
Whether these teams keep up their sloppiness moving forward remains to be seen, but it was easily the biggest takeaway of Tuesday night’s game.
2. Despite January slump, Ohio State is still in decent position.
It’s been quite a season for the Buckeyes so far. The team got off to arguably the hottest start in the nation, jumping out to a 11-1 record that included multiple wins away from home and blowouts of North Carolina and Villanova. Unfortunately, Ohio State stumbled after that, losing six of its next seven games. Those struggles left many wondering whether the team’s fast start was a mirage and whether the Buckeyes would be able to bounce back.
Well, after Tuesday night’s road win, Ohio State is now 15-7 overall and has won its last three games. The Buckeyes might not be as good as they looked early in the year, but the team is still in decent shape moving forward. Ohio State still has a plethora of quality wins on its resume and is now coming off two straight top 50 wins. A few more wins and the Buckeyes should be sitting in good shape for the NCAA Tournament and beyond.
3. Michigan has its work cut out moving forward.
Regardless of how or why the Wolverines dropped Tuesday night’s game to Ohio State, there’s no debating that it will be a tough one for fans to stomach moving forward. Not only because it came down to the wire against a rival, but also because it figures to have a significant impact on the team’s NCAA hopes in the weeks to come.
With the loss, Michigan fell to 13-9 overall and just 4-7 in Big Ten play. The team has also lost three straight at home and five of its last seven games overall. The Wolverines are still decent rated on the statistical sites, but time is running out to add enough wins for the team to hear its name called on Selection Sunday. The team is now projected to finish the regular season with around 17 wins, which probably won’t be enough to make it.
The pressure will be building in Ann Arbor moving forward and fans will hope the team can get things rolling on Saturday at home against Michigan State.
4. Michigan continues to have some interesting substitution patterns.
A lot of people will talk about Tuesday night’s game and boil it down to a handful of plays in the final minutes. And to a certain extent, they’re right. It was a tight game that easily could have gone both ways in the final minutes. A shot here or a miss there and Michigan or Ohio State easily could have come out on top.
With that said, one stretch of the game that should get some attention occurred earlier in the second half when Michigan opted to explore its bench after a few fouls from Brandon Johns and Jon Teske. And while Austin Davis’ entrance into the game provided a welcome boost for the Wolverines, the offense really struggled when Michigan was rolling with both Davis and Colin Castleton in the lineup midway through the second half.
We can’t take things in a vacuum, but Ohio State’s offense was really struggling at the time and it seemed like an opportunity to for Michigan to make a run. However, Michigan couldn’t capitalize and it seems likely the bench substitution played a part in it. We’ll see if the team tries a different approach in Saturday’s game against the Spartans.
After a tough January, Buckeye fans have to be excited about the calendar turning to February. Ohio State seems to be playing with a new fire and the team scored a marquee win on Tuesday on the road against the Wolverines. Meanwhile, Michigan yet again let a winnable game slip away at home.
Both teams will now get a few days off before returning to action. Michigan will face rival Michigan State at home on Saturday while the Buckeyes will go on the road against hoping to beat Wisconsin in Madison. Both should be fun ones.