I knew that Michigan would come in to Sunday's game hungry after losing five straight. And I knew that anything can happen on the road in conference play. What I didn't see coming was a complete lack of energy from Ohio State.
Sure, the Buckeyes have started slow for much of the season, but the first half of the 64-57 loss to Michigan was the worst basketball I've seen all season. Sure, Ohio State made a nice comeback, but as fans have become all to accustomed to, it was too little, too late.
Here are my major takeaways from a sluggish loss in Ann Arbor.
- Slow, sluggish start: The Buckeyes went to half trailing 39-23, their second-largest halftime deficit this season (18, Louisville). Ohio State has trailed by 10 or more five times this season and lost them all (twice against Iowa, against North Carolina, Louisville and, now Michigan). Ohio State has combined to outscore those opponents by 29 in the second half, but the slow starts are baffling. This was the worst.
- Still there for the taking: Despite the dismal first half, the game was there for the taking for the Buckeyes. They trailed by just three with six minutes to go, but continually shot themselves in the foot. Whether it was missed free throws, turnovers or an inability to rebound, they couldn't close the game against what in my opinion is a less talented opponent. While it isn't fair to blame one person for the meltdown -- everyone got in on the action -- things have to start with the seniors.
- Pick and roll problems: A big problem was Ohio State's inability to defend the pick and roll. That allowed Michigan to get to the rim with ease. Thing is, this was not a problem isolated to one player. No matter who the big man was, he wasn't hedging well and didn't recover to stop the roll man. No matter who the guard was, he wasn't recovering.
- Russell seems frustrating: Defenses are doing everything they can to stop D'Angelo Russell and it's working. His 16 points Sunday were extremely hard to come by and other guys aren't stepping up. The freshman seemed very frustrated after the game and I can't blame him.
- KBD a bright spot : One bright spot for the Buckeyes was the play of Keita Bates-Diop. The freshman scored 12 points and shot with confidence. I wouldn't be surprised if his minutes increase, especially if Matta goes small more often as he intimated he might in the post game. The listless play of Marc Loving (4 points) further opens things up for KBD.
“We weren’t playing hard enough," Sam Thompson said. "The big wasn’t hedging hard enough, the guy guarding the guard wasn’t recovering fast enough and the guy tagging wasn’t tagging hard enough. It’s on everybody, we weren’t playing hard enough.”
"I don't want to say it the wrong way, but we go as our seniors go," he said. "Me playing the way that I've been playing earlier in the year, I'm not considering myself as a freshman anymore. I kind of consider myself a senior or an upperclassmen that people can look up to. The better we play as a core, the better we'll be as a team and we gotta bring it every game.
"We got a lot of work to do. We can't fool anybody. We can't fool ourselves. We can't lie to ourselves. We can't blame it on anybody but ourselves. As you see in all the games we lost, we got a lot of work to do."