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Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Craft’

Buckeyes sent home: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 69

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Michigan bench vs OSU 3-15-14(MGoBlue.com)

Six times in the 16-year history of the Big Ten Tournament have Michigan and Ohio State met. All six times the Buckeyes sent the Wolverines home early. That changed on Saturday afternoon when Michigan topped Ohio State 72-69 to advance to Sunday’s championship game for the first time since 1998.

Michigan started the game hitting everything in sight. Nik Stauskas got the scoring started with a three and after Aaron Craft hit a two-point jumper, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert added threes. Robinson then stole the ball for a breakaway layup and Jordan Morgan scored back to back baskets to give Michigan a quick 15-2 lead.

Ohio State scored the next five before Stauskas hit his second three of the game. At the eight-minute mark, Michigan led 30-16 and looked as if it would cruise into the half. But Ohio State had other thoughts juts as it did when it came back from an 18-point second-half deficit on Friday night. The Buckeyes used a 21-11 run to close the half, heading into the locker room down just four points.

Stauskas started off the second half just as he did the first with a three, and after a LaQuinton Ross jumper, Derrick Walton Jr. hit a three and Stauskas added another to put Michigan back ahead by double digits. But once again Ohio State fought back. An alley-oop from Shannon Scott to Sam Thompson gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game at 61-60 with 7:58 to play.

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (MGoBlue.com)

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (MGoBlue.com)

From there, the teams played evenly the rest of the way, neither able to pull away by more than three. Jordan Morgan hit one of two free throws and LeVert followed with a three, but Scott answered with a three of his own to tie the game at 64. LeVert made one of two free throws and OSU got back to back layups by Ross and Thompson to grab a 68-65 lead.

On Michigan’s next trip down the court, Stauskas hit a pull-up jumper to bring Michigan within one with 3:45 to play. After an Ohio State missed shot, Robinson was fouled and made both to reclaim the lead. On the other end, Morgan fouled Aaron Craft, but the Buckeye senior uncharacteristically missed both.

On the ensuing possession, Stauskas got the ball on the left baseline with his back to the basket. Craft went for the steal and Stasukas was able to get around him, drive baseline and lay the ball in to put Michigan ahead 71-68 with 2:08 left.

After missed shots on both ends, Morgan picked up his fifth foul of the game. Ross was able to make one of two and Michigan took possession with 44 seconds remaining, up by two. Stauskas ran the clock down as far as possible and heaved up a three, but it clanged off the rim. However, LeVert soared through the lane and grabbed the rebound, kicking it out to Spike Albrecht, who was fouled with six seconds left.

Albrecht made the first to give Michigan a three-point lead. He missed the second and Craft grabbed the rebound and raced down the court desperately needing a three to send the game into overtime. As he pulled up from the top of the key, the ball slipped out of his hands and he was unable to get a shot off as time expired.

The win put Michigan in the championship game for the first time since it won the inaugural Big Ten Tournament in 1998. It also ended Ohio State’s streak of five straight championship game appearances.

Stauskas paced Michigan with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 4-of-8 from three-point range. LeVert added 17 points and eight rebounds, while Robinson III contributed 11 points. Walton Jr and Morgan each scored eight points and pulled down five boards. Zak Irvin hit two big threes in the first half to add six points.

As a team, Michigan shot 53.2 percent overall and made 9-of-22 three-pointers, but hit just 10-of-19 from the free throw line. Ohio State also shot well, 48.2 percent overall and 44.8 percent from downtown. The Buckeyes out-rebounded Michigan 31 to 26.

Michigan faces its other big rival, Michigan State, on Sunday afternoon in the championship game. The Wolverines topped the Spartans in both of the regular season meetings, but Michigan State has all of its starters back from injury at this point and looked good in beating Wisconsin in Saturday’s other semifinal. Win, and Michigan should gain a one-seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Lose a close game, and a one-seed is still a possibility.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
17 points (6-of-9 FG, 2-of-4 3PT, 3-of-5 FT), eight rebounds (one offensive), two assists, four turnovers in 37 minutes

**Nik Stauskas**
18 points (6-of-12 FG, 4-of-8 3PT, 2-of-3 FT), one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 34 minutes

*Shannon Scott*
18 points (7-of-10 FG, 4-of-6 3PT, 0-of-1 FT), five rebounds, six assists, three steals, two turnovers in 32 minutes

Quick Hitters:


___________________________________________________________

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 4-8 1-2 2-2 1 1 2 0 11 1 1 2 3 36
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-6 2-3 0-0 0 5 5 1 8 4 3 0 2 29
11 Nik Stauskas* 6-12 4-8 2-3 0 1 1 0 18 1 2 0 1 34
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-4 0-0 2-7 1 4 5 5 8 3 0 0 0 30
23 Caris LeVert* 6-9 2-4 3-5 1 7 8 1 17 2 4 0 0 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-4 1-3 1-2 0 0 0 2 4 1 1 0 1 11
15 Jon Horford 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 2 1 1 0 10
21 Zak Irvin 2-3 2-3 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 1 0 0 0 13
Totals 25-47 12-23 10-19 5 21 26 11 72 15 12 3 7 200
Ohio State 27-56 7-19 8-12 9 22 31 18 69 17 1 2 10 200
Full Stats

Justin’s 3 thoughts: Ohio State

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Michigan-Ohio State header_BTT

Michigan survived a scare from Illinois on Friday afternoon to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed in 11 years to lose its opening round game to a No. 8 or No. 9 seed. Ohio State, meanwhile, did just what it always does in the Big Ten Tournament — win games. After fending off a pesky Purdue squad in the opening round game on Thursday, Ohio State faced a much tougher matchup against a surging Nebraska team fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. The Buckeyes fell behind by 18 points in the second half, but battled back to pull off a 71-67 win.

Michigan and Ohio State squared off just once this season, a 70-60 Michigan win in Columbus on Feb. 11, but the two have a long history in the conference tournament, and it’s not good at all for the Wolverines. Ohio State has knocked Michigan out of the tournament all six times they have faced off (1999, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012). The Buckeyes were the higher seed and favored each time, so that’s the one difference from this year’s meeting.

Here are my three keys to ending that streak:

Michigan's defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Michigan’s defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Don’t settle

On Friday, Michigan’s offense looked stagnant for long periods at a time. Illinois’ aggressive zone defense and Jordan Morgan’s foul trouble kept Michigan out of the paint and the Wolverines settled for three-pointers. Sometimes that works — Michigan does lead the Big Ten in three-point percentage — but others it doesn’t. When taken in the normal flow of the offense or open looks, Beilein will never tell his players to stop shooting. But that’s not what the offense was for most of the second half.

In fact, the 30 three-point attempts were the most since Michigan chucked 31 against Nebraska on Feb. 5, and it was just the third time this season the Wolverines attempted 30 or more. They average 21 attempts per game.

Ohio State’s pressure defense is well known as Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are adept at harassing opposing guards and forcing turnovers. Michigan’s guards are more than capable of handling the pressure, but they’ll need to keep the offense moving and avoid digressing it into one-on-one drives and long shots late in the shot clock.

In the season’s only meeting, Michigan shot just 17 threes — and made eight of them. More importantly, both big men, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford were involved in the offense, combining for 14 points and 12 rebounds. That’s what it will take to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Contain Ross and Smith

Ohio State’s offense has had trouble scoring points for most of the season, and when the teams faced off in Columbus it was virtually a two-man show. LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. combined for 37 of the Buckeyes’ 60 points. Both have the ability to hit the three, although Ross missed all four of his attempts and Smith made 3-of-9. Michigan’s defense needs to force them to pass up the three and let others, especially Craft and Scott, shoot.

Craft is shooting just a hair over 30 percent from downtown on the season and is just two for his last 16. He’s most dangerous when he puts his head down and drives to the basket, able to finish or dish it off to a big man, so keep him outside the arc and make him shoot. Scott shoots just 27.3 percent from three and has made just 7-of-32 since Jan. 7.

Ross, meanwhile, has put Ohio State on his back late in the season, averaging 21 points per game over the last five including a season-high 26 against Nebraska on Friday. Smith has struggled as of late, having made just six of his last 21 shots from the field in the last three games and six of his last 28 three-pointers dating back to Feb. 15. Still, he has made at least three three-pointers in a game eight times this season, so he can’t be left alone.

Play like the underdog

Michigan won the first meeting on the road by 10. They ran away with the regular season conference title and are the No. 1 seed. The bulls eye is squarely on their back. But they need to play like Ohio State is favored. The Buckeyes will certainly be hungry to avenge that loss and move to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game for the sixth straight season.

Michigan must forget the history behind this matchup in the tournament and simply match Ohio State’s intensity from the opening tip. In all reality, neither team has much to play for in the grand scheme of the season — they’re both locks for high seeds in the Big Dance — but rivalry bragging rights are on the line. Play with fire out of a desire to get the season sweep of Ohio State just like they did against Michigan State.

Prediction: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 70, OT

Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014



As the Big Ten regular season wrapped up on Sunday Michigan was able to sit back and relax having wrapped up the outright conference title by three games and the number one seed in this week’s tournament. The Wolverines will face the winner of the last two teams they faced to close the season, Illinois and Indiana, in the quarterfinals on Friday. The rest of the tournament bracket can be found here

As the conference heads to Indianapolis to battle it out for the automatic NCAA Tournament berth, we took another look at the power rankings.

1. Michigan (23-7, 15-3)  Even
Last week: Mar. 4 W at Illinois 84-53, Mar. 8 W vs Indiana 84-80
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (8) Indiana or (9) Illinois 12pm ESPN/ESPN2

Michigan finished off an incredible conference season by outlasting Indiana on senior night. Jordan Morgan went out with a bang, recording his first double-double of the season and keeping the Wolverines alive early with critical offensive rebounds. The Big Ten outright champions earned the top seed in the conference tournament after running away from the pack and finishing three games ahead of second-place Wisconsin and Michigan State. 

2. Nebraska (19-11, 11-7) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W at Indiana 60-50, Mar. 9 W vs #9 Wisconsin 77-68
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (5) Ohio State or (12) Purdue 2:25pm ESPN/ESPN2

In its biggest game of the season Sunday, Nebraska beat Wisconsin to finish the year with a league-best 15-1 home record. Incredibly, the preseason pick to finish dead last in the Big Ten earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament and landed just one game out of second place. 

3. Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 W vs Purdue 76-70, Mar. 9 L at Nebraska 68-77
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (7) Minnesota or (10) Penn State 6:30pm BTN

Bo Ryan’s Badgers had their eyes set on a prize outside the Big Ten: A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A nine-point loss to Nebraska seemingly eliminated Wisconsin from that discussion, but it still earned the second seed in the conference tournament after an 8-1 finish.

4. Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 6 W vs #24 Iowa 86-76, Mar. 9 L at Ohio State 67-69
This week: BTT quarterfinals Friday vs (6) Iowa or (11) Northwestern 8:55pm BTN

Michigan State looked like it was back on track after a win over Iowa on senior night. However, a loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale dropped the Spartans to just 5-7 in their last 12 games and 1-2 since sending a healthy starting lineup back on the court.

5. Ohio State (23-8, 10-8) • Up 3
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs #22 Michigan State 69-67
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (12) Purdue 2:25pm BTN

At the beginning of the conference schedule, Sunday’s Michigan State-Ohio State game looked like a potential shootout for the regular season championship. In reality, the game meant very little to the final Big Ten standings. But Aaron Craft did get a win on senior night, and the Buckeyes just barely managed to finish above .500 in the conference.

6. Illinois (18-13, 7-11) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 4 L vs #12 Michigan 53-84, Mar. 8 W at #24 Iowa 66-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (8) Indiana 12pm BTN

John Groce’s team could’ve thrown in the towel after a nine-game losing streak planted it firmly in last place. Instead, the Illini rallied and won four of their last five games, all of which were against NCAA Tournament hopefuls (Minnesota is the only non-lock at this point).

7. Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) • Up 2
Last week: Mar. 9 W vs Penn State 81-63
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (10) Penn State 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota put itself into a very tough position heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Losses in nine of 14 games put Minnesota on the outside of the tournament bubble looking in with just a home game against Penn State left. The Gophers did what they had to do, blowing out the Nittany Lions 81-63, but it still may not be enough.

8. Iowa (22-11, 9-9) • Down 2
Last week: Mar. 6 L at #22 Michigan State 76-86, Mar. 8 L vs Illinois 63-66
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (11) Northwestern 8:55pm ESPN2

Near the midway point of the season, Iowa was ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll and competing for a Big Ten championship. After five losses in its final six games, this team is reeling at the worst possible time. Iowa drew a favorable matchup in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, facing a Northwestern team that it beat by 26 points — twice.

9. Indiana (17-14, 7-11) • Down 5
Last week: Mar. 5 L vs Nebraska 60-70, Mar. 8 L at #12 Michigan 80-84
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (9) Illinois 12pm BTN

The preseason top-25 Hoosiers know there’s only one route to the Big Dance now: winning the conference tournament. Indiana dropped its last two games to land in the No. 8 slot in Indianapolis and a matchup against the streaking Fighting Illini.

10. Penn State (15-16, 6-12) • Even
Last week: Mar. 6 W at Northwestern 59-32, Mar. 9 L at Minnesota 63-81
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (7) Minnesota 6:30pm ESPN2

Minnesota waxed Penn State in the final road game for the Nittany Lions, but they still managed to finish the conference season with a 6-6 record in the final 12 games after losing the first six. Penn State drew a rematch against the Gophers in the first round Thursday — a chance to strengthen its NIT resume.

11. Northwestern (13-18, 6-12) • Up 1
Last week: Mar. 6 L vs Penn State 32-59, Mar. 9 W at Purdue 74-65
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (6) Iowa 8:55pm ESPN2

Northwestern quietly earned a big road win on Sunday to stay out of the cellar and finish 11th in the Big Ten. The Wildcats held much higher expectations after a 5-5 start, but a seven-game losing streak put any hopes of contending quickly to rest.

12. Purdue (15-16, 5-3) • Down 1
Last week: Mar. 5 L at #9 Wisconsin 70-76, Mar. 9 L vs Northwestern 65-74
This week: BTT first round Thursday vs (5) Ohio State 2:25pm BTN

Matt Painter’s team sure hit rock bottom this season. After nearly dethroning the first-place Michigan Wolverines two weeks ago, Purdue had its heart ripped out and lost its three final games. The Boilermakers finished the season by losing 11 of 13 games, including the final six.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 6 – Friday edition

Friday, February 14th, 2014


1. Michigan (18-6, 10-2)  Even
Last week: Feb. 5 W vs Nebraska 79-50, Feb. 8 L at Iowa 67-85
This week: Tuesday W at #22 Ohio State 70-60, Sunday vs #21 Wisconsin 1pm CBS

Michigan needed to stop the bleeding after a drubbing in Iowa resulted in its second loss in three games. The team that won 10 games in a row showed up in the second half in Columbus, leading Michigan to its first win there since 2003 and putting the Wolverines back atop the Big Ten standings.

2. Michigan State (21-4, 10-2) • Even
Last week: Feb. 6 W vs Penn State 82-67, Feb. 9 L at Wisconsin 58-60
This week: Thursday W vs Northwestern 85-70, Sunday vs Nebraska 3pm

The Spartans are mired in a tough stretch in which they had lost three of their  last five games. Last night’s win over Northwestern and upcoming games against Nebraska and Purdue should provide an opportunity to get back on track before the big showdown in Ann Arbor on February 23.

3. Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5) • Up 7
Last week: Feb. 4 W at Illinois 75-63, Feb. 9 W vs #9 Michigan State 60-58
This week: Thursday W vs Minnesota 78-70, Sunday at #15 Michigan 1pm CBS

Although a win over Illinois ended a streak of five losses in six games for the Badgers, beating first-place Michigan State hinted at a possible return of the Wisconsin that started the season ranked in the top 10.

4. Iowa (18-6, 7-4) • Even
Last week: Feb. 4 L vs Ohio State 69-76, Feb. 8 W vs #10 Michigan 85-67
This week: Saturday at Penn State 1pm ESPNU

In its last six games, Iowa has rotated between wins and losses, making it difficult to gain any ground in the Big Ten standings. Its inconsistency was nowhere to be found on Saturday, though, as it dominated Michigan on national television.

5. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 L at #10 Michigan 50-79, Feb. 8 W at Northwestern 53-49
This week: Wednesday W vs Illinois 67-58, Sunday at #9 Michigan State 3pm BTN

Tim Miles’s team finally picked up a road win last Saturday with a win over the streaking Wildcats in Evanston. Nebraska continues to protect its home court, moving to 11-1 with its second straight win on Wednesday night.

6. Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) • Up 2
Last week: Feb. 4 W at #17 Iowa 76-69, Feb. 8 W vs Purdue 67-49
This week: Tuesday L to #15 Michigan 60-70, Saturday at Illinois 8pm BTN

Just when Aaron Craft and his crew began to look like the preseason top 10 team they were four months ago, Michigan went into Columbus and won for the first time since 2003. Ohio State had won three games before the loss to Michigan, and the schedule offers an opportunity to build another winning streak into March.

7. Northwestern (12-13, 5-7) • Down 4
Last week: Feb. 8 L vs Nebraska 49-53
This week: Thursday L at #9 Michigan State 70-85, Sunday vs Minnesota 6pm BTN

Northwestern’s magical stretch that brought it as high as fourth in the Big Ten came to an abrupt halt Saturday when it became the first team to lose to Nebraska at home this season. An extremely busy week lies ahead for Chris Collins’s crew, as it will host Minnesota in between trips to East Lansing and Columbus.

8. Penn State (13-12, 4-8) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 6 L at #9 Michigan State 82-67, Feb. 9 L vs Illinois 55-60
This week: Wednesday W at Indiana 66-65, Saturday vs #16 Iowa 1pm ESPNU

The Big Ten’s last place team shook up the conference with a three-game winning streak last week, but followed up by losing twice in four days. Penn State got back on track Wednesday night by pulling off a shocker on the road against Indiana.

9. Minnesota (16-9, 5-7) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 L at Purdue 74-77 3OT, Feb. 8 W vs Indiana 66-60
This week: Thursday L at #21 Wisconsin 70-78, Sunday at Northwestern 6pm BTN

An outstanding non-conference performance by Minnesota evaporated during Big Ten play, in which it has lost five of its last eight. Before beating Indiana last Saturday, Richard Pitino’s team dropped three straight against teams with losing conference records.

10. Indiana (14-10, 4-7) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 8 L at Minnesota 60-66
This week: Wednesday L to Penn State 65-66, Saturday at Purdue 4pm ESPN

Indiana got the enormous win it needed to turn its season around when it handed the first-place Wolverines their first conference loss. Unfortunately for this team, the next two games featured losses to Minnesota and Penn State, dropping the Hoosiers right back to where they were.

11. Purdue (14-10, 4-7) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 W vs Minnesota 77-75 3OT, Feb. 8 L at Ohio State 49-67
This week: Saturday vs Indiana 4pm ESPN

Fans in West Lafayette enjoyed a thrilling triple-overtime win over Minnesota last week, but Purdue’s struggles leave little reason for hope as the Big Ten season nears a close.

12. Illinois (14-11, 3-9) • Even
Last week: Feb. 4 L vs Wisconsin 63-75, Feb. 9 W at Penn State 60-55
This week: Wednesday L at Nebraska 58-67, Saturday vs #22 Ohio State 8pm BTN

In its last 10 games, Illinois does boast a win over 11th-place Penn State, but the other nine games are all loses. Chances of making the NCAA Tournament in 2014 have evaporated for this young team.

Bucks stopped here: Michigan 70 – Ohio State 60

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014


Locker room vs Ohio State 2-11-14

When Michigan followed up its 10-game winning streak with two losses in three games, the hype that flocked to Ann Arbor behind the top team in the Big Ten began to fade. Now, after a win over a resurgent Ohio State squad in Columbus, the future looks as bright as ever for the Wolverines.

Heading into the match-up on Tuesday night, Michigan basketball hadn’t won in Columbus since 2003. But this stands as the only scheduled match-up between the teams this season, so John Beilein’s team decided to take care of business.

While the defense of Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft stifled the Michigan guards early, a boost off the bench from up-and-coming freshman Zak Irvin ignited the offense and brought the Wolverines within four points at the half. Irvin made both of his triple attempts and finished the game with 10 points.

Derrick Walton Jr became the first Michigan freshman to record 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game since Chris Webber in 1992 (MGoBlue.com)

Derrick Walton Jr became the first Michigan freshman to record 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game since Chris Webber in 1992 (MGoBlue.com)

In the second half, it was the Derrick Walton, Jr. show on both ends of the court. The talented freshman point guard recorded his first career double-double, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and only one turnover. He continues to show composure beyond his age, hitting all six free throws to ice the game late.

The story of the game was resiliency, as Michigan fought back from two separate 10-point deficits to cruise to a nice double-digit victory. Irvin’s effort may have kept the Maize and Blue afloat during the early struggles, but the intensity of Jon Horford helped them get over the hump.

Horford’s stats — eight points and four rebounds — don’t fairly demonstrate his impact on the game. Horford played like a beast in the paint and led Michigan emotionally during a 12-0 run midway through the second half that buried the Buckeyes. His counterpart, Jordan Morgan looked hesitant on the offensive end, so Horford’s assertiveness provided a huge boost.

Despite inspiring efforts from Walton, Horford, and Irvin, Nik Stauskas finished the game as Michigan’s leading scorer with 15 points. His jump-shot more closely resembled the Stauskas that fought off NBA draft talk two weeks ago than his performances since then, and left his lackluster effort against Iowa in the dust.

Perhaps the only concern for Beilein in the wake of such a big victory lies in the continued struggles of Glenn Robinson III. Ohio State bullied the athletic sophomore inside the paint and many of his seven missed shots were layups affected by Buckeye defenders. Robinson often disappears during major road games, and a 3-of-10 effort in Columbus did little to shed that reputation.

Most importantly, Michigan returned to its winning ways on the road and held serve in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State’s loss at Wisconsin on Sunday provided Michigan with a golden opportunity to regain control of the conference, and it did so by winning the toughest remaining road game on the schedule.

Michigan now turns its focus to Wisconsin, which visits Ann Arbor this Sunday. If Michigan takes care of business against the Badgers and then Michigan State the following weekend, it will maintain the inside track to the Big Ten Championship.

Three stars

***Derrick Walton, Jr.***
13 points (3-of-10 FG, 1-of-2 3PT, 6-of-6 FT), 10 rebounds, six assists, one steal, one turnover in 36 minutes

**LaQuinton Ross**
24 points (8-of-17 FG, 0-of-4 3PT, 8-of-11 FT), seven rebounds, one assist in 37 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
10 points (2-of-3 FG, 2-of-2 3PT, 4-of-5 FT), three rebounds in 20 minutes

Quick hitters – Drew edition

 

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-10 1-1 2-2 4 1 5 2 9 0 0 0 0 23
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 1-2 6-6 1 9 10 2 13 6 1 0 1 36
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-9 3-6 4-5 0 3 3 1 15 0 2 0 0 38
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-4 0-0 0-0 6 2 8 4 6 0 1 0 0 19
23 Caris LeVert* 3-11 1-6 2-2 2 3 5 0 9 2 0 0 1 38
02 Spike Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 5
15 Jon Horford 4-5 0-0 0-2 1 3 4 3 8 0 1 0 0 20
21 Zak Irvin 2-3 2-2 4-5 0 3 3 2 10 0 2 0 0 20
  Totals 22-53 8-17 18-22 14 25 39 14 70 8 9 0 2 200
  Ohio State 23-52 3-20 11-16 8 19 27 17 60 7 8 2 4 200
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Ohio State

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


Michigan-Ohio State header

Very rarely do teams cruise through tough conference schedules without experiencing some bumps in the road. For this year’s Michigan team, those bumps have popped up very recently on an otherwise fresh sheet of pavement. With two losses in the last three games and a trio of difficult games coming up, the Wolverines will have to win a couple more tough games if they are to bring the Big Ten title back to Ann Arbor.

Tonight presents another golden opportunity as Michigan travels to Columbus to take on a resurgent Buckeye squad (9 p.m. on ESPN). Here are my three thoughts on how Michigan should approach this monster matchup.

Don’t Beat Yourselves: Michigan has lost two of their last three games on the road in very loud, unforgiving environments. There’s no doubt Michigan deserved to lose those two games either. But there are some concerning aspects of the Wolverines’ recent play that need to be worked on if they are to stand a chance in enemy territory.

First, Michigan needs to control the flow of the game and hold onto the ball. For whatever reason, Michigan is turning the ball over at a much higher clip lately, with 35 cough-ups over the past three contests, despite being one of the best teams in the country at getting a shot up on every possession.

Undoubtedly, Nik Stauskas’s inability to get shots up has contributed to the recent turnover woes, and Glenn Robinson III’s play on Saturday left much to be desired in that department. As a whole, Michigan needs to be careful to not give up easy points to an Ohio State team that struggles to score in the halfcourt.

If Nik Stauskas draws Aaron Craft Michigan will need other scorers to step up (Mike Munden, AP)

If Nik Stauskas draws Aaron Craft Michigan will need other scorers to step up (Mike Munden, AP)

Additionally, the Maize and Blue have to find a way to take the crowd out of the game by dictating pace. When the fast break is there, Michigan needs to run, but the Wolverines need to also not get beat up on the boards or on the breakaway themselves.

Is Anybody Home? Many Michigan basketball followers think that the Wolverines can be just as good with Nik Stauskas facilitating the offense and letting others do the scoring as they are with him shooting the lights out. After all, Stauskas took only three shots while recording eight assists against Nebraska. I, however, have a different philosophy. I believe that Stauskas needs to be the guy if Michigan is to be there at the end of both the Big Ten season and the Big Dance.

Eight times this season, Stauskas has recorded fewer than 10 shot attempts. In those eight games, Michigan is 5-3. In the 14 games the Canadian has taken 10 or more shots, the Wolverines are 11-3. Certainly, the Maize and Blue can be good when Stauskas records eight assists, and Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton have demonstrated an ability to create on their own, but Michigan is not the same with Stauskas camped out in the corner being face-guarded by a guard giving up six inches.

Tonight, Stauskas will likely be guarded by one of the best defensive players in the country, point guard Aaron Craft, but unless he is seeing constant double teams, Stauskas needs to shoot and score to win.

Hope and Pray: There comes a time when you can only do so much against a guy that has caught fire. Michigan has learned that the hard way in three of their last four games, as Gary Harris, Yogi Ferrell, and Roy Devyn Marble have all gone off on their home courts while being guarded by various Wolverines (but usually LeVert). That trio has combined to score 80 points on 43 shots while making 17-of-24 three-pointers (70.8 percent) and rendering any semblance of defense useless.

Mercifully, Ohio State doesn’t really have one guy capable of going bonkers, but long, athletic wing LaQuinton Ross is a player to watch out for. Ross is the only Buckeye shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and having scored double digits eight straight times, he needs to be a focal point of Michigan’s defense. If the Wolverines are again late to contest and sloppy with the ball, perhaps hoping and praying will be the only solution.

Prediction: The pounding on Saturday in Iowa City leaves me feeling less than confident about tomorrow’s game, but John Beilein teams seem to always find a way to bounce back after devastating losses. Unfortunately, I think tonight’s game means just a little bit more to Ohio State than to Michigan, and the road woes are getting to the young Wolverines. Give me the Buckeyes, 70-60.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 2

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014


1. Michigan State (15-1, 4-0) Even
Last week: Jan. 7 W vs #3 Ohio State 72-68 OT, Jan. 11 W vs Minnesota 87-75 OT
This week: Wednesday at Northwestern 7pm on BTN

The Spartans have remained undefeated in the Big Ten by winning their previous two games in overtime at the Breslin Center. Though the performance against Minnesota was less impressive, the victory over Ohio State is enough to make Michigan State the frontrunner through two weeks.

2. Wisconsin (16-0, 3-0) • Even
Last week: Jan. 8 W vs #23 Illinois 95-70
This week: Tuesday at Indiana 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Michigan 6pm

As the highest ranked team in the conference, Wisconsin has taken down a couple of top 25 Big Ten teams in its past two games. A comeback win over Iowa was followed by a 25-point dismantling of Illinois in which Bo Ryan’s team scored an uncharacteristic 95 points. Wisconsin is dangerous in 2014.

3. Iowa (14-3, 3-1) • Up 2
Last week: Jan. 8 W vs Northwestern 93-67, Jan. 12 W at #3 Ohio State 84-74
This week: Sunday vs Minnesota 1pm BTN

Iowa has had a brutal early Big Ten schedule, travelling to both Madison and Columbus to play top 5 teams. After blowing a second half lead against the Badgers, the Hawkeyes came up with the best win in the conference so far by beating the Buckeyes on the road. Iowa’s offense ranking in the top 10 nationally in points, rebounds and assists per game.

4. Michigan (11-4, 3-0) • Even
Last week: Jan. 9 W at Nebraska 71-70
This week: Tuesday vs Penn State 8pm BTN, Saturday at #3 Wisconsin 6pm

The Wolverines have had a cakewalk of a conference schedule so far, playing three teams with a combined 3-9 Big Ten record. A close call in Lincoln proved just how deadly this conference can be in road games, so the 2-0 record away from Ann Arbor is a welcome start for a McGary-less Michigan team.

5. Ohio State (15-2, 2-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 7 L at #5 Michigan State 68-72 OT, Jan. 12 L vs #20 Iowa 74-84
This week: Thursday at Minnesota 9pm ESPN2

After starting the season win 15 wins, the Big Ten schedule has hit Ohio State in the mouth. Michigan State won a hard-fought battle in East Lansing after Aaron Craft led a strong fourth quarter comeback to force overtime. Just five days later, Iowa walked into Columbus and stunned Thad Matta’s team, which now sits at just 2-2.

6. Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 8 W at Penn State 68-65, Jan. 11 L at #5 Michigan State 75-87 OT
This week: Thursday vs #11 Ohio State 9pm ESPN2, Sunday at #14 Iowa 1pm

Minnesota has looked shaky since the start of Big Ten play, winning two games over Penn State and Purdue by three points each. On the other hand, both losses have come to undefeated Big Ten teams, one by just three points and one in overtime on the road. All signs point to the Gophers playing to the level of their competition, which makes this team dangerous late in the season, but will keep it from contending for the conference title.

7. Northwestern (8-9, 1-3) • Up 5
Last week: Jan. 9 L at #20 Iowa 67-93, Jan. 12 W vs #23 Illinois 49-43
This week: Wednesday vs #4 Michigan State 7pm BTN, Saturday at Indiana 2:30pm

Chris Collins’ team came from nowhere to upset No. 23 Illinois and get its first Big Ten win Sunday. After losing their first three conference games by 27, 23 and 26, the Wildcats held Illinois to just 43 points in Evanston.

8. Purdue (11-5, 1-2) • Up 1
Last week: Jan. 12 W vs Nebraska 70-64
This week: Wednesday at Illinois 9pm BTN, Saturday vs Penn State 7pm

Purdue has a losing record early in Big Ten play, but single-digit losses to Ohio State and Minnesota suggest that Matt Painter has his team of Johnsons ready to play this season. A 10-3 non-conference finish was a success, too.

9. Illinois (10-5, 0-2) • Down 3
Last week: Jan. 8 L at #3 Wisconsin 70-95, Jan. 12 L at Northwestern 43-49
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Saturday vs #4 Michigan State 8pm

Through 17 games, Illinois ranks outside the top 290 teams nationally in both assists per game and field goal percentage. What does that mean? The team doesn’t make good decisions. Illinois seems to impress the country each year during the non-conference schedule only to struggle through the tough Big Ten slate. After being embarrassed by Wisconsin and losing a laugher to Northwestern, John Groce’s team appears to be heading down that same path in 2014.

10. Indiana (11-5, 1-2) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 11 W at Penn State 79-76
This week: Tuesday vs #3 Wisconsin 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Northwestern 2:30pm

Easily the most disappointing team in the Big Ten so far is Indiana. The Hoosiers have yet to put a complete game together after losing to both Illinois and Michigan State and squeaking out a three point win against the Nittany Lions. A home game against Wisconsin tonight offers a chance to turn things around in a big way.

11. Nebraska (8-8, 0-4) • Even
Last week: Jan. 9 L vs Michigan 70-71, Jan. 12 L at Purdue 64-70
This week: None (Jan. 20 vs #11 Ohio State)

Nebraska is much closer to being competitive than it was last season. Three of the four Big Ten losses so far have come by 10 or less points. Three missed layups in the final seconds against Michigan snatched away the chance to open the new Pinnacle Bank Arena with a Big Ten win.

12. Penn State (9-8, 0-4) • Down 2
Last week: Jan. 8 L vs Minnesota 65-68, Jan. 11 L vs Indiana 76-79
This week: Tuesday at Michigan 8pm BTN, Saturday at Purdue 7pm

Unfortunately for Penn State, the return of star guard Tim Frazier has done little to make the team more successful. Eight losses, including the first four of Big Ten play have Penn State sitting at 9-8 halfway through the season.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 1

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014


With Big Ten play underway, it’s time to reveal our first conference power rankings. We wanted to wait until the non-conference slate was finished before starting our power rankings so we could accurately judge each team’s performance through a full non-conference schedule and get a feel for how the conference will shape up. So following the first week of conference action, here are our power rankings.

1. Michigan State (14-1, 3-0)
Last week: Dec. 31 W at Penn State 79-63, Jan. 4 W at Indiana 73-56
This week: Tuesday W vs #3 Ohio State 72-68 OT, Saturday vs Minnesota 2:15pm

Michigan State reestablished itself as the team to beat early in conference play by essentially beating Ohio State twice in one game. After building a 17-point lead and blowing it, the Spartans were able to win it in overtime.

2. Wisconsin (15-0, 2-0)
Last week: Jan. 2 W at Northwestern 76-49, Jan. 5 W vs #22 Iowa 75-71
This week: Wednesday vs #23 Illinois 9pm on BTN

After rolling through the non-conference schedule undefeated, Wisconsin has begun Big Ten play by stomping Northwestern and proving it can play offensive basketball in a comeback win over Iowa.

3. Ohio State (15-1, 2-1)
Last week: Dec. 31 W at Purdue 78-69, Jan. 4 W vs Nebraska 84-53
This week: Jan. 7 L at Michigan State 68-72 OT, Sunday vs #20 Iowa

Ohio State is an extremely athletic team and the hustle of Aaron Craft keeps them in every game (even when down 17 in East Lansing). The overtime loss did little to decrease faith in this team, and Thad Matta’s crew will be right in the thick of the race for a number one seed in March.

4. Michigan (10-4, 2-0)
Last week: Jan. 2 W at Minnesota 63-60, Jan. 5 W vs Northwestern 74-51
This week: Thursday at Nebraska 9pm ESPN2

The Wolverines were disappointing before conference play, losing four games, but have rebounded nicely the last two weeks. A win on the road against Minnesota without Mitch McGary or Glen Robinson in the second half was a good start to the Big Ten season.

5. Iowa (12-3, 1-1)
Last week: Dec. 31 W vs Nebraska 67-57, Jan. 5 L at #4 Wisconsin 71-74
This week: Thursday vs Northwestern 9pm ESPNU, Sunday at #3 Ohio State 1:30pm

Iowa nearly pulled off one of the most difficult things to do in Big Ten basketball by taking Wisconsin to the wire in Madison. Iowa held a double-digit lead in the second half against the Badgers only to lose its second game by less than five points to an undefeated team (Iowa State). The Hawkeyes are third in the country in rebounding and 12th in both points and assists per game.

6. Illinois (13-2, 2-0)
Last week: Dec. 31 W vs Indiana 83-80 OT, Jan. 4 W vs Penn State 75-55
This week: Wednesday at #4 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday at Northwestern 7:30pm

This team seemingly always begins the season on a hot streak and jumps into the top 25 only to struggle through the conference schedule. So far, Illinois has beaten Penn State and survived Indiana at home in Big Ten play, but a trip to Madison on Wednesday will show us what the team is really made of.

7. Minnesota (12-3, 1-1)
Last week: Jan. 2 L vs Michigan 60-63, Jan. 5 W vs Purdue 82-79
This week: Wednesday at Penn State 7pm BTN, Saturday at #5 Michigan State 2:15pm

Richard Pitino suffered a close loss at the hands of Michigan in his first Big Ten game, but Minnesota bounced back to beat Purdue and move to 12-3 in this young season. For the first time in recent memory Minnesota is playing without Trevor Mbakwe, but Andre and Austin Hollins are picking up the slack as numbers one and two on the team in points.

8. Indiana (10-5, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L at Illinois 80-83 OT, Jan. 4 L vs #5 Michigan State 56-73
This week: Saturday at Penn State 12pm BTN

Though the Hoosiers already have five losses on the season, four of them are to currently ranked teams and Tom Crean’s team has been competitive in three of them. A heartbreaking overtime loss to Illinois kicked off the conference season for Indiana and carried over into a blowout loss to Michigan State. The talent is there, but this young team has to learn how to win Big Ten games.

9. Purdue (10-5, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L vs #3 Ohio State 69-78, Jan. 5 L at Minnesota 79-82
This week: Sunday vs Nebraska 12pm BTN

Purdue has had a difficult start to the Big Ten season, playing the undefeated Buckeyes and on the road against Minnesota. Both losses were competitive, but the Boilermakers lack a win better than 10-5 West Virginia.

10. Penn State (9-6, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L vs #5 Michigan State 63-79, Jan. 4 L at Illinois 55-75
This week: Wednesday vs Minnesota 7pm BTN, Saturday vs Indiana 12pm BTN

The good news for Penn State is Tim Frazier is back; the bad news is it hasn’t really turned into victories. The Nittany Lions have lost their first two conference games by a combined 36 points despite leading Michigan State at halftime.

11. Nebraska (8-6, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L at #22 Iowa 57-67, Jan. 4 L at #3 Ohio State 53-84
This week: Thursday vs Michigan 9pm ESPN2, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Losses on the road to Iowa and Ohio State seemed inevitable for Nebraska heading into the Big Ten season, but when the Buckeyes blew this team out by 31, it was clear that the Cornhuskers are nowhere near the top of the Big Ten.

12. Northwestern (7-8, 0-2)
Last week: Jan. 2 L vs #4 Wisconsin 49-76, Jan. 5 L at Michigan 51-74
This week: Thursday at #20 Iowa 9pm ESPNU, Sunday vs #23 Illinois 7:30pm

Chris Collins’ first year in the Big Ten is off to a difficult start. Northwestern is the only team in the conference with a losing record and has lost both Big Ten games by more than 20 points.

Michigan 76 – Ohio State 74 OT: Wolverines crack pesky Buckeyes

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013


Final 1st 2nd OT Total
#3 Michigan (21-2, 8-2) 30 42 4 76
#10 Ohio State (17-5, 7-3) 31 41 2 74

Tim Hardaway Jr hit five threes in the second half to propel Michigan (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Trailing by five midway through the second half of a must-win battle with Ohio State, Tim Hardaway Jr. decided it was time to take over the game. The enigmatic junior drained four straight three-pointers as Ohio State matched him with twos on the other end. The fourth gave Michigan a 55-54 lead – its first lead since just before the half after leading for most of the first half.

But a 6-0 Buckeye spurt again put Michigan down by five, prompting John Beilein to call a timeout. Mitch McGary converted a put-back and Hardaway followed it up with yet another three. But Michigan couldn’t stop the Buckeyes on the other end of the court, and it wasn’t until a Nik Stauskas three at the 3:27 mark that Michigan regained the lead once again.

Following an Amir Williams free throw that tied the game, a pair of strange plays kept the momentums wings going. Hardway drove the lane looking for a dunk, but the ball was swatted away right into the arms of Trey Burke who nailed a three. On the other end, Deshaun Thomas missed a three and Stauskas grabbed the rebound, but as he tried to get it to Burke, a Buckeye defender tipped it right back to Thomas who drilled a three to tie the game once again.

The teams traded baskets and Michigan got the ball back with 21 seconds remaining with a chance to win the game. But Burke’s step-back three over Thomas at the buzzer was no good and overtime ensued.

Burke started the scoring in the extra stanza with a three, but Michigan was held scoreless until Glenn Robinson III hit the front end of two free throws with seven seconds remaining. Fortunately, Michigan’s defense turned up the intensity and got the good fortune of Thomas not even taking a shot in overtime, as the Wolverines limited the Buckeyes to just two points in the period. Aaron Craft’s last-second drive to the basket was swatted away by Hardaway and Michigan came away victorious.

It was a heavyweight bout in front of an electrified Crisler Center, and most importantly, the win kept Michigan well within reach of the Big Ten title.

Hardaway led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting (6-of-9 from three). Burke scored 16 and dished out eight assists compared to just two turnovers against Ohio State’s pesky defender Craft. Mitch McGary played perhaps the best game of his young career, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds, while Stauskas added 11 and Robinson chipped in 10.

Michigan held Thomas to 17 points – three below his season average – on 6-of-15 shooting, and although Ohio State outshot Michigan from the field (51.7 percent to 46.7 percent), Michigan made twice as many threes (14 to seven). Michigan also outrebounded the Buckeyes 32-30, including a 13-9 advantage on the offensive glass.

The Wolverines head back out on the road for a pair of games with Wisconsin and Michigan State before getting a relative breather. The Wisconsin game is Saturday at noon on ESPN.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-8 1-3 3-5 3 1 4 1 10 4 1 0 2 41
15 Jon Horford* 1-3 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 2 2 2 0 1 0 13
03 Trey Burke* 6-12 4-7 0-0 1 2 3 2 16 8 2 1 0 43
10 Tim Hardaway Jr.* 7-14 6-9 3-5 0 2 2 2 23 1 2 1 1 41
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-8 3-5 0-0 2 4 6 1 11 1 4 0 0 43
02 Spike Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
04 Mitch McGary 7-13 0-0 1-1 3 3 6 1 14 1 0 1 4 29
23 Caris LeVert 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 9
52 Jordan Morgan 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 4
Totals 28-60 14-24 6-11 13 19 32 9 76 18 11 4 7 205
Ohio State 30-58 7-16 7-10 9 21 30 11 74 15 11 7 7 205

Michigan vs Ohio State quick thoughts

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013


#3 Michigan vs #10 Ohio State
Tuesday, Feb. 5 | 9pm ET | ESPN
20-2 (7-2) Record 17-4 (7-2)
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
E. Michigan 93-54
C. Michigan 88-73
Northwestern 94-66
Iowa 95-67
Nebraska 62-47
#9 Minnesota 83-75
Purdue 68-53
Illinois 74-60
Northwestern 68-46
Wins Albany 82-60
Rhode Island 69-58
Washington 77-66
UMKC 91-45
N. Kentucky 70-43
Long Beach St. 89-55
Savannah State 85-45
UNC-Asheville 90-72
Winthrop 65-55
Chicago State 87-44
Nebraska 70-44
Purdue 74-64
#2 Michigan 56-53
Iowa 72-63
Penn State 65-51
Wisconsin 58-49
Nebraska 63-59
#15 Ohio State 56-53
#3 Indiana 73-81
Losses #2 Duke 68-73
#9 Kansas 66-74
#11 Illinois 55-74
#18 Michigan State 56-59
77.8 Points Per Game 71.7
59.6 Scoring Defense 57.3
639-for-1,265 (50.5%) Field Goal % 539-for-1,175 (45.9%)
499-for-1,225 (40.7%) Def. Field Goal % 427-for-1,129 (37.8%)
179-for-445 (40.2%) 3-point % 138-for-369 (37.4%)
140-for-451 (31.0%) Def. 3-point % 122-for-396 (30.8%)
254-for-359 (70.8%) Free Throw % 290-for-417 (69.5%)
11.5 FT Made/Game 13.8
36.4 Rebounds Per Game 37.0
29.5 Opp. Reb. Per Game 32.2
15.4 Assists Per Game 14.0
9.4 Turnovers Per Game 11.2
5.5 Steals Per Game 6.6
2.9 Blocks Per Game 4.5
G – Trey Burke (18.2)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.6)
Leading Scorer F – Deshaun Thomas (20.0)
G – Lenzelle Smith Jr. (10.5)
F – Mitch McGary (6.0)
F – Glenn Robinson III (5.7)
Leading Rebounder F – Deshaun Thomas (6.2)
G – Lenzelle Smith Jr. (5.4)

A little more than three weeks ago, Ohio State quashed Michigan’s hopes of an unprecedented undefeated season on their home floor in Columbus. Tonight (9pm on ESPN), the Wolverines have their chance at revenge against their hated rivals. In the five games since these two teams battled in mid-January, both teams have dropped just one game – Ohio State on the road against Michigan State the game after beating Michigan and Michigan on the road against Indiana in its last game.

As the season goes on, each game seems to matter more and more for the conference crown, and tonight’s matchup will be no different. The sold-out Crisler Center should be rocking in Maize Out form to help cheer on the hometown Wolverines against the Buckeyes. Here are three keys for Michigan to even up the season series:

1. Help Trey Burke: Michigan has the offensive firepower to beat any team in the country on any floor. Yes, Indiana was able to out-gun the Wolverines in Bloomington on Saturday, but no one would deny the fact that the Maize and Blue had a realistic shot of taking the game, and if they had played to the level they are capable of, could have won it outright.

The problem for Beilein’s squad was a lack of production from two key cogs on offense – freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. Stauskas reached double digits against the Hoosiers but took 10 shots and three free throws to get there. He also struggled mightily in the loss to Ohio State, putting zero points on the board for still the only time in his career. Robinson III had been the steady yet quiet scorer for Michigan all season until he nearly went silent on Saturday, when he made just one of his six shots in 40 minutes.

Even if Burke is his usual self, he’s going to need some help on both sides of the ball to avenge the first loss of the season. Unfortunately for Michigan, the chances Burke is his usual self are probably slim. Aaron Craft, Ohio State’s premier lockdown defender, has been remarkable against Michigan’s All-American in their four head-to-head matchups over the past two seasons, holding Trey to 12.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and five turnovers per game while forcing him into 32.6 percent field goal shooting, including a 26.3 percent mark from downtown. Certainly by this time one might hope that Burke has figured out Craft’s defensive play to some extent, but Tim Hardaway, Jr., Stauskas, Robinson III, and company better be ready to play.

2. Stop Deshaun Thomas: Michigan could play Ohio State 30 times in one season and this would be a key every single time. Deshaun Thomas is without question the offensive leader for the Buckeyes, pouring in 20 points per game, nearly double that of Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Ohio State’s second leading scorer, and he leads the team in rebounding as well with 6.2 a night. Thomas has scored 15 or more points in all but two of Ohio State’s games so far, and in both of those, he still managed double digits. His lowest output of the year, an 11-point showing at Penn State, came against the lowliest team in the Big Ten, which was never going to provide a challenge.

Aaron Craft wasn't able to slow down Trey Burke in Ann Arbor last season

Perhaps the scariest part of his game, however, is his ability to score from anywhere on the court. The junior can step out and hit the three-ball (40%), he regularly takes advantage of mismatches and scores in the paint (50.7% from inside the arc), and loves the mid-range jumper. He also makes 81.6 percent of his free throw attempts. Despite all this information, many think that the way to beat Ohio State is to let Thomas score his points and make the rest of the Buckeyes win the game, pointing most notably to Ohio State’s two Big Ten losses so far in which Thomas has averaged 26 points (scoring nearly half the team’s points himself) while his teammates have struggled to get it done themselves.

If I were Beilein, though, I’d still make priorities one, two, and three on defense stopping the dynamic scorer. Force him to work hard for his shots and you have accomplished two things – making it hard on Thomas while at the same time forcing his teammates to beat you. If Michigan can limit Thomas to five fewer points than the previous time they played (when he scored 20), they should have a very good chance of getting it done.

Good news for Michigan: two of Thomas’s three worst shooting nights on the season have come in the past three games, when he has shot just 41.7 percent from the floor. He has also failed to make a three-pointer in Ohio State’s last two outings, only the second and third times he has done that this year.

3. Feed off the Crowd: Ohio State’s secret to beating Michigan at home was no secret at all. They simply rode the energy provided by the home crowd to a huge first half lead and were able to save up enough gas to stymie the Wolverines’ late comeback attempt. Tonight, the Maize and Blue would be wise to reverse the tables with the home crowd in their court. The Wolverines are wearing special maize jerseys along with maize shoes and socks to match the crowd’s Maize Out efforts. The advantage of playing at home simply cannot be over-stated, and in a rivalry game like this, Michigan needs the crowd to provide the extra boost it sometimes takes. A little noise can go a long way toward creating some turnovers, which will lead to Michigan’s hyper-efficient fast-break, while also influencing the refs’ calls when they could go either way.

Most of all, however, the Wolverines need to play their game and control the pace. If Beilein thinks turning up the pace would help, that’s exactly what the Wolverines need to do. When the break isn’t there, Burke needs to pull the ball back and let his teammates help out.

Prediction: If Trey Burke’s woes continue against Aaron Craft and company, Michigan could be in for a long, grueling battle, but if the team as a whole comes together and no one struggles mightily, the Maize and Blue should be able to even up the score in the season series against their archrivals. With the home court advantage and a brutal stretch ahead, I think Michigan will have the focus and energy needed to run out to a nice lead and hold on throughout. Burke shakes Craft a few times while Nik Stauskas has a huge night to propel Michigan to a 69-58 win.