Michigan Basketball: Michigan at Ohio State — Wrap-Up
A Matter of Control
After laying an egg against Iowa, and acting like a hen sitting on a nest waiting for something to happen for the first 15 minutes of the game against Ohio State, Michigan woke up, seized control, and came away with an important road win in conference play.
The game was not the strangest ever witnessed, but it could be noted as quirky. Michigan appeared to be following the Iowa downturn with lackluster effort and play the first 10 minutes of the game. More failures to get back on defense, clearly loafing as Dakich correctly stated, and giving up early lay-ups and uncontested shots put Michigan in a ten point hole. Then the Wolverine offense started to get some backside offensive rebounds for a few putbacks or second chances as the offense continued to improve after the slow start. The lead was reduced to four by halftime.Ross of Ohio State got his usual points on easy layups and a few uncontested shots. Smith chipped in 13 points, but that was the main thrust of the Ohio State offense. Amir Williams got easy position and easy shots early on against Michigan’s big men. But between Williams and super athlete Sam Thompson, Ohio State only executed nine shots and scored a combined 11 points. This was a Michigan victory and a situation Ohio State did not exploit.
Ohio State was in total control: the transition game, recently linked more to opponent turnovers, was working. The quickness was showing as Ohio State also scored early on lay-ups while running the regular offense. Then, slowly, things turned around. Control shifted.
Ohio State media quotes place part of the turnaround on Michigan playing tougher as the game progressed. This was clearly true, but another field hypothesis must be offered: Ohio State started to show why some folks in the 17th state view this current Buckeye team as offensively challenged. The easy low post game was abandoned for shots in the 15-22 foot range. Again, slowly, but surely, the shot selection and shots made started to dwindle. Many of the shots from long range were not even close. Ohio State’s big guys did not hit the boards and Michigan started piling up one and done possessions that led to two important droughts of nearly four minutes each without Ohio State scoring. The first let Michigan catch up, and the second let Michigan pull away. Control was finally established!What Ohio State did or did not do on offense was surprising. Part of the dilemma involves the outstanding player Aaron Craft. Clearly, his shooting attitude is now mental, especially when the locals simply keep saying, “Well he cannot shoot.” Ross, is a scorer in the Caris LeVert Mode, except older and in more control. Ross is what LeVert could be next year.
The coaching staff of Ohio State has to be extremely disappointed with the Buckeye rebounding effort. Michigan will never be confused with teams like Arizona or Kentucky when it comes to rebounding. But on this night Michigan out rebounded Ohio State by 12 and secured 14 offensive rebounds. This has not been a one game trend for Ohio State. As the game went on Morgan and Horford continued to work enough to get a few dunks and put back rebounds. Between the two, 14 points and 12 rebounds were achieved. That is about what Michigan needs out of that position to beat a good team.
The guard play was interesting to follow. The expected tough Craft on Stauskas match-up could best be described as a draw, which in essence was a Michigan victory. Craft really is as good as advertised at man defense. Michigan put a couple of nice wrinkles in to get Nik short looks that resulted in six points. Those options ended up being part of the game difference.Walton Jr. stole the show as Craft and Stauskas dueled to a draw. After looking confused the first half, Derrick hit his stride and became a big factor in the aforementioned game control. A look at his stats could convince the casual watcher, he had average impact: wrong. His three-pointer on a second chance field goal may have been the final dagger. That shot equaled control of the game for Michigan. Ten rebounds for a six-foot guard is more than a normal day’s work. But GBMWolverine and this writer are not surprised. Walton gets better position than any player on the team. He is a quick jumper and is able to snap a rebound at the top of his apex. Seemingly, Derrick is always inside, via the opposition trying to work him low or by good position. But this was not a fluke; Derrick has shown the ability to grab the ball all season long. He has also shown the ability to turn a bad game into a good game. Derrick was needed last night; Spike simply is not athletic enough to hang with superior players on the perimeter for extended amounts of time.
The end game had two flaws by Nik Stauskas. His soft, lazy pass after getting trapped on the sideline without a dribble could have given Ohio State a chance to get close. He also short-armed a free throw on a one-and-one opportunity. Again, this could have given Ohio State a further chance.
Michigan does some strange things. Not being prepared to get the ball inbounds on Ohio State’s out of bounds alignment cost the Wolverines two timeouts, but ultimately no harm. Having Stauskas dribble near the half-court line against Craft made no sense whatsoever. Two five second calls again provided Ohio State with opportunities. In the first half, Michigan again employed the intentional foul strategy too soon (8.5 seconds), then fouled a corner shooter after the half’s final shot was released, the result being 2 out of three made foul shots.Michigan made 12 foul shots down the stretch and Ohio State still could only score on layups. LeVert, Walton, Robinson, and Irvin all made foul shots. Irvin provided a needed spark off the bench at just the right time hitting some important free throws and two big three-pointers.
Control, that was the name of the game. It switched over to Michigan in the second half as the Wolverines shot 52% after a horrible first half. Forty-two percent from the field and even better from 3-point land was the final shooting stat. Late in the game, only somewhat surprisingly, Michigan players were stepping back with what looked to be an intentional strategy inviting Ohio State to take outside shots. A few times Ohio State, and Craft in particular, passed on the invite. One could almost see the “go ahead, make my day” mentality on the Wolverine faces.
So, in Columbus the question is how bad is Ohio State, and in Michigan and other spots of the country, the question is how good is Michigan? Both questions will remain enigmas throughout the year. But last night may have provided a clue.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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