Men’s Basketball Game Preview: #1 Ohio State vs. Michigan

When the Ohio State Buckeyes take their home court tonight against the Michigan Wolverines tonight, it will be about more than weathering the storm. The undefeated and number one ranked Ohio State Buckeyes have been there before. The last time these two teams went at it, the game was down to the wire. Six of the last eight games on the hardwood have had a score with a difference of five points or less.

On Saturday, the Northwestern Wildcats put a scare together at home, but with 15 seconds remaining David Lighty stole the game away with a clutch robbery, that led to a Jared Sullinger free throw and a 58-57 win.  When it comes down to the wire, there isn’t a better team in the nation at responding. When this team takes on the rival Wolverines at home, they will be looking to continue a run that has hardly been matched in Columbus. The last time the Buckeyes went 9-0 in conference play was the 1961-62 season. According to head coach Thad Matta, a lot of that has to do with how competitive the Big Ten is.

“In the seven years I’ve been in the Big Ten, I know for sure in the last three, that if we’ve played 48 games, 44 of them have come down to the last four minutes of the game.”

Tonight might not be that much different.

The Wolverine View:

After losing six straight games, the Wolverines have bounced back in their last two contests, with big wins over in-state rival Michigan State and the Iowa Hawkeyes. The last team this team won three straight conference games since January of last year. The Wolverines will be put to task, since they are 1-21 all-time against teams ranked number one in the nation.

In their last action against Iowa, Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 19 points and the team as a whole shot nearly 60% from the field.

When it comes to the Wolverine offense, it will be key to cut off the transition three point bucket. In their last meeting earlier this season, more than half of the shots put up came from the perimeter. Part of that has to do with staying away from the 8th best scoring defense in the perimeter and it should be expected yet again tonight with so many well rounded shooters in the game. Senior forward David Lightly tells The Lantern that the key tonight is stopping the play of sophomore guard Darius Morris.

“With Morris coming off ball screens and finding people, it’s deadly, We have to disrupt him as much as possible, try and get the ball out of his hands, and we have to make them do things that they’re not comfortable doing.”

The Buckeye Prospective:

Thad Matta has his team rolling through the thick stuff as we head into February. His undefeated squad has swatted away any threats to this point, but ever game matters. When your team is led offensively by a freshman, there is always a chance of a letdown at some point. Last time phenom Jared Sullinger took the court against the Wolverines, he was very dissapointed. Usually it’s not a bad thing to get twelve points and seven rebounds from a diaper dandy. Though they were sub-par for the big man, it wasn’t what has bugged him about that first meeting.

Sullinger made the freshman mistake.

For most college freshman, the thing that haunts them is the “freshman fifteen.” For Sullinger, his biggest worry is turning over the ball. Against the Wolverines in their first match-up, the experience and relentlessness inside from the Michigan interior caused him to turn over the rock six times.  If the Buckeyes want to continue their dominance, It starts with Sullinger.

And it ends with the coaching of Thad Matta. Our Superhero is the man of the Big Ten:

Buckeye Notes:

  • Ohio State is leading the nation in scoring margin (20.9 ppg.) and fewest fouls a game (14.1). The Buckeyes are No. 2 in turnover margin (5.8), No. 3 in fi eld goal percentage (.500) and No. 4 in assist to turnover ratio (+1.59). The Buckeyes also are No. 7 in scoring defense (57.5 ppg.) and No. 9 in fewest turnovers per game (10.8). Jon Diebler’s 47.7 percent shooting percentage from 3-point range is No. 7 nationally.
  • Ohio State rookies have earned all 12 Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week awards this season. Jared Sullinger earned his 10th freshman honor Monday after averaging 19 points and 7.5 rebounds last week in wins vs. Purdue and at Northwestern.
  • Since Thad Matta took over Buckeye program in 2004-05, Ohio State is 114-10 in Columbus, the most home wins among Big Ten schools. In conference play, Ohio State is 47-8 at home over that same span, second to Wisconsin’s 49 wins and just ahead of Michigan State (47). Over the last two seasons Ohio State is 32-1 in Columbus. Only Duke (28-0) and Kentucky (27-0) have better win percentages over that span.

(All facts compiled by the Ohio State sports information department)

Tonight should be yet another good game of basketball on campus. Keep it right here at Scarlet and Game tonight for the Live Thread and chat!

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