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Posts Tagged ‘Lenzelle Smith Jr’

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

Michigan vs Ohio State preview

Friday, January 11th, 2013

#2 Michigan at #15 Ohio State
Sunday, Jan. 13 | 1:30pm ET | CBS
16-0 (3-0) Record 12-3 (2-1)
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
Wins Albany 82-60
Rhode Island 69-58
Washington 77-66
UMKC 91-45
N. Kentucky 70-43
Long Beach St. 89-55
Savannah St. 85-45
UNCA 90-72
Winthrop 65-55
Chicago State 87-44
Nebraska 70-44
Purdue 74-64
Losses #2 Duke 68-73
#9 Kansas 66-74
#11 Illinois 55-74
80.8 Points Per Game 75.7
58.8 Scoring Defense 58.1
480-for-934 (51.4%) Field Goal % 409-for-887 (46.1%)
363-for-906 (40.1%) Def. Field Goal % 306-for-809 (37.8%)
138-for-336 (41.1%) 3-point % 108-for-293 (36.9%)
103-for-335 (30.7%) Def. 3-point % 86-for-274 (31.4%)
194-for-271 (71.6%) Free Throw % 210-for-314 (66.9%)
12.1 FT Made/Game 14.0
38.4 Rebounds Per Game 38.9
28.5 Opp. Reb. Per Game 32.2
16.3 Assists Per Game 15.2
9.3 Turnovers Per Game 10.9
5.1 Steals Per Game 7.2
2.6 Blocks Per Game 4.4
G – Trey Burke (18.2)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.3)
Leading Scorer F – Deshaun Thomas (20.3)
G – Lenzelle Smith Jr. (10.7)
F – Glenn Robinson (6.1)
F – Mitch McGary (6.1)
Leading Rebounder F – Deshaun Thomas (6.8)
G – Lenzelle Smith Jr. (5.5)

Sixteen games into the season, and heading into a Big Ten gauntlet that starts on Sunday, Michigan finds itself one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the entire country. The other is Duke who already passed the test that Michigan faces on Sunday afternoon. Michigan will be looking to achieve the best start to a season in program history, but the school’s biggest rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes, stand in the way as the toughest challenge the team has faced to date. It will be a game of great interest for the rest of college basketball as we will learn just how good this Wolverine team is.

Ohio State ranked as high as fourth early in the season until the Buckeyes fell 73-68 at then-No.2 Duke. In that game, Ohio State was within two with 28 seconds remaining, despite shooting just 34 percent from the field. The Buckeyes also out-rebounded the Blue Devils 40-37, and if not for the poor shooting night may have won.

A month later, Ohio State hosted No. 9 Kansas and again fell, this time 74-66. Once again, it was cold shooting that doomed the Bucks as they hit just 9-of-36 shots in the second half.

Last week. it was then-No. 11 Illinois that beat the Buckeyes, and this one wasn’t even close. The Illini led 37-25 at halftime and opened the second half on a 13-2 run to open up a 50-27 lead that Ohio State could never come back from. Once again, cold shooting was the culprit as Ohio State shot just 33 percent for the game.

In each of those three losses, aside from poor shooting, there was a common theme: the opposing teams each got big games from a guard and a big man. For Duke, it was Rasheed Sulaimon who scored 17 points, all in the second half, to go along with Mason Plumlee’s 21-point, 17-rebound performance. For Kansas, Ben McLemore went for 22 points and six rebounds, while big man Jeff Whitney recorded 14 and 10. For Illinois, Brandon Paul score 19 points and seven rebounds, and center Nnanna Egwu scored a career high 16 points. It seems that the recipe for beating the Buckeyes is an offense that gets big production from both inside and out.

But that’s easier said than done. Ohio State is a very talented team in and of itself and is led by junior forward Deshaun Thomas. He leads the team with 20.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s extremely long and athletic and is shooting 47.2 percent from the field and just over 40 percent from three-point range so far. He has a season high of 31 points against Washington and a low of 14 against Northern Kentucky. He scored 16 against both Duke and Kentucky, shooting a combined 10-of-25, though he did hit 6-of-13 three-point attempts. In Big Ten play, Thomas is averaging nearly 23 points per game so far.

Deshaun Thomas leads the Big Ten in scoring (Joe Robbins, Getty Images)

The only other Buckeye averaging double figures is junior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. at 10.7. He also ranks second on the team in rebounding with 5.5 per game. His season high is 18 points against Albany, but he has been held below ten six times, including a goose egg against Washington and two points against Purdue on Tuesday. He shoots 44.8 percent overall and 43.5 percent from three-point – the team’s best three-point shooter.

Point guard Aaron Craft ranks third on the team in scoring at 8.9 points per game and ranks third in the Big Ten with 4.7 assists per game. He’s not a great shooter, averaging 39.8 percent overall and 33.3 percent from downtown, but he does have the ability to hit shots when he’s on. Against Albany in the season opener, he hit 5-of-7 threes en route to a season high 20 points. In the three losses, he made just 4-of-13. He’s more of a set-up man that has the ability to finish around the rim, but he’s best known for his relentless defense. He tends to get away with a lot of hand checking, so the way the officials call the game could very well determine how Michigan’s day goes offensively. In last year’s three meetings, he largely held his own with Trey Burke, but Burke’s progression this season has made him nearly unstoppable. It will be a great matchup to watch.

Sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross averages 8.7 points off the bench, but most of his production has been against the weaker teams on the schedule. He scored nine against Duke, four against Kansas, and two against Illinois while averaging just under 12 minutes per game.

Sam Thompson averages 7.1 points per game, although in the last six games he’s averaging just five points. The 6’7″ sophomore from Chicago is a decent shooter (44.3 percent), but not a good three-point shooter, having hit just 6-of-25 attempts this season.

Senior forward Evan Ravenel has been the fifth starter most of the season and averages 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He’s coming off his best performance of the season, a 6-of-8 shooting night against Purdue.

Amir Williams started the four games that Ravenel didn’t and has a season-high of eight points against Nebraska. Shannon Scott is the backup point guard who plays 21 minutes a game. He averages 6.1 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.1 steals per game and had his best game of the season against Kansas when he scored 15 points.

As a team, Ohio State ranks fifth in the Big Ten with a 46.1 shooting percentage and fourth with a 36.9 three-point percentage.

Michigan can – and should – beat the Buckeyes, but it will take a better shooting performance than the Wolverines displayed against Nebraska on Wednesday. I don’t see Michigan putting up two bad performances in a row, so the Wolverines should win a close one in Columbus.

Check back on Saturday afternoon for Sam’s quick thoughts to find out specifically what Michigan needs to do to win.