Rushed Reactions: #8 Michigan 72, #24 Ohio State 69Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal between Michigan and Ohio State in Indianapolis.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Michigan’s hot starts to both halves were instrumental to it earning this victory. Michigan started the game in an absolute flurry, as it scored 15 of the game’s first 17 points. Shots were falling from everywhere for the Wolverines, as they made six of their first eight attempts from behind the three-point line. Ohio State was able to gain its composure and go on a 15-4 run over the final 6:02 of the first half to make it a four-point game, but the Michigan offense was once again ready to explode when the second half started. In the first four minutes of the second half, John Beilein‘s squad aggressively ran its lead from four points to 12 points and was once again showing its outside shooting prowess. Like in the first half, Ohio State recovered from this onslaught and turned the game into a hotly-contested affair. Consequently, it can be inferred that if Michigan did not get off to such hot starts in each half, it would not have been able to grab the victory over its archrival.
- Ohio State’s fight was admirable. Thad Matta’s squad was down 15-2 not even four minutes into the game, but instead of sulking and letting Michigan continue its thermonuclear start, the Buckeyes found it within themselves to fight back and make it a battle to the very end. Ohio State is not known as an offensive powerhouse, but the Buckeyes used their offense to key their march back into the game. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross and junior guard Shannon Scott led the offensive attack, finishing the afternoon with 19 and 18 points, respectively. The Buckeyes were also able to shore up their defensive effort. After allowing Michigan to shoot a smoldering 64 percent in the first half, Ohio State tightened the screws and held the Wolverines to a 40.9 percent shooting clip in the second half. While Ohio State ultimately only has a loss to show for its performance Saturday afternoon, the toughness and desire it showed are things the team can build on as it moves into the NCAA Tournament.
- Michigan’s offensive balance is truly impressive. During the ESPN broadcast of Michigan’s 84-80 victory over Indiana on March 8, polarizing analyst Dan Dakich noted how the Wolverines have been so successful because they truly do not care who scores. When watching a Michigan game, Dakich’s point becomes abundantly clear. In Saturday’s victory, Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas led the way for the Wolverines with 18 points and fellow sophomore guard Caris LeVert was right behind him with 17 points. Although the two combined for 35 points, they only combined for 21 shot attempts. While they are both gifted scorers, neither Stauskas nor LeVert dominate the ball, as they both fully contribute to the team’s effort of finding the best possible shot. In this day and age, it is rare to see a team with a star like Stauskas play such truly team-oriented basketball, but that is exactly what Michigan does. John Beilein and his staff deserve a great deal of credit for instilling this mantra into the team and it really is no wonder why Michigan has been so successful in recent seasons.
Player(s) of the Game. Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, Michigan. The sophomore duo led the way for the Wolverines all afternoon. Stauskas finished the afternoon with 18 points on a 6-of-12 (4-of-8 from three) performance from the field. LeVert added 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and also collected eight important rebounds. Close games often come down to which team has the best closers and Stauskas and LeVert were those closers for Michigan.
- “I feel so fortunate right now. You look at so many of our games down the stretch here, they’ve ended just like this and the ball keeps bouncing our way. You only can have that type of luck if you have guys like these guys sitting next to me [Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert]. They make enough smart plays to keep you in the game, and some games the ball will just bounce your way.” – Michigan coach John Beilein, commenting on Michigan’s season-long ability to win close games.
- “This is a rivalry game, and we were just excited to be out here and have this opportunity today. And I think we did a great job of sticking together as a team even when they made their runs. I just think we did a good job today.” – Michigan guard Nik Stauskas, noting the importance of the victory.
- “It slipped out of my hands.” – Ohio State guard Aaron Craft, describing what happened as he lost control of the ball in the final seconds with his team down three.
Sights and Sounds. Numbers-wise, the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was probably 60/40 in favor of Michigan, but when Ohio State made its run in the second half, the Buckeye fans made their presence raucously known. When Michigan sophomore forward Mitch McGary was sidelined with a back injury in late December, his role was reduced to that of a spectator. McGary, however, is not your normal spectator. The big man lives and dies with every Michigan possession and is always the first one up and clapping at every opportunity. Great teams have great chemistry, and McGary’s ability to still be a valuable asset to his team despite his injury shows that Michigan meshes incredibly well as a unit.
What’s Next. Michigan advances to the Big Ten Tournament final where it will meet the winner of the Michigan State and Wisconsin game. Ohio State will now wait to see where it will be headed to begin the NCAA Tournament next week.