Perimeter defense was one of Tommy Amaker's primary concerns heading into Thursday night's match-up with the Ohio State Buckeyes. The blistering shooting display put on by Iowa Hawkeyes in his squad's 94-66 loss over the weekend made defending Thad Matta's sharp-shooting bunch particularly worrisome. Once the game started, it soon became clear the Maize and Blue headman's worries were well placed.
The Wolverines initially seized control of the game behind the inside-out efforts of juniors Courtney Sims and Dion Harris. Sims powered in four buckets down low while Harris nailed three triples to help propel the Maize and Blue to an early 21-8 lead. However, that advantage quickly began to evaporate thanks to a Buckeye blitzkrieg the likes of which many had never seen.
Five of Ohio State's next eight field goals came from long distance (three of which were rained in by Ivan Harris) to knot the score at 29 with 7:20 left in the half. Minutes later Michigan pushed the lead back to five points (37-32), but the Buckeyes converted their final six field goals down the stretch from three point range. Last week's co-Big Ten player of the week, Je'Kel Foster, connected on three of those bombs to help his team take a 49-43 lead into the break. In the opening stanza the visitors actually shot better from long distance (12/16) than they had from inside the arc (5/16).
"We struggled with guarding them off the bounce [and] off the dribble," Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker said. "I am disappointed in the way we were trying to defend them this evening. I give them credit, because they still have to make those deep shots and they made them."
The Buckeyes commenced with their hot shooting early in the second half, knocking down their first two field goals from deep to push the lead to eight (55-47). Fortunately for the Wolverines, Courtney Sims would keep them in the game. The 6-11 big man poured in eight of the home team's first twelve points to cut the deficit to two by the 15:32 mark. The Wolverines then put on a long range shooting display of their own, getting consecutive three-pointers from Daniel Horton, Ronald Coleman, and Dion Harris to take their first lead since early in the game, 64-63.
The two teams jostled for the lead over the next four minutes, but the Wolverines still maintained a one point lead (73-72) with 8:32 left to play. That's when an all too familiar foe stepped in to stymie the efforts of the Maize and Blue.
The injury bug that ravaged last year's team had already cut into this year's rotation prior to the game. Lester Abram (ankle) and Jerret Smith (mononucleosis) were again out of action for this game, but that turned out to only be the beginning of the Wolverines troubles. The problem compounded when Brent Petway re-injured his bruised ribs at the 11:52 mark in the second half and Dion Harris twisted his ankle three minutes later. Harris's injury was particularly harmful because the Buckeyes began to clog the paint and focus much of their perimeter attention on Daniel Horton.
The Buckeyes quickly took advantage of Michigan's misfortune, going on a 12-2 run to build an 84-75 lead with 5:17 left. From there, they never looked back and went on to win the game 94-85.
On the game the Wolverines were led by Courtney Sims with 26 points and 16 rebounds and Daniel Horton with 15 points and 10 assists. Jamar Butler led five Buckeyes in double figures with 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds. For more on the game, click the following links: Boxscore, Notes, Quotes.
The Wolverines will look to get back to their winning ways on the road Saturday versus the Purdue Boilermakers. Tip-off is scheduled for 12:17pm. Michigan will again be without Smith and Abram Brent Petway should be back in action. According to Harris, there is a slight chance he will be available as well. "I think it's just a little sprain, so I'll just probably treat it," Harris said after the game. "It's up to the coaches and the trainers. Myself, I would like to go out there and help my team."
Harris will have his ankle evaluated today.