February 5, 2008

Bucks clamp down late

COLUMBUS - It has been a bit of a renaissance for the Buckeyes when it comes to the Wolverines with the football and men's and women's basketball teams holding a 20-1 edge over That school up North, going into Tuesday night's game. For nearly 33 minutes it seemed as if Thad Matta's streak against the Wolverines would come to an end but strong defense that held Michigan scoreless for the final 4:30 to go along with five Buckeyes in double digits scoring was enough to propel Ohio State (16-7, 7-3) to a 65-55 win over Michigan (5-17, 1-9).

Othello Hunter led the Buckeyes with 15 points and 12 rebounds while Jon Diebler came off the bench red hot scoring 14 points and picking up five boards of h is own. Michigan was led by Kelvin Grady's 11 points but didn't find much consistency from the starters and went ten deep with many little used players seeing meaningful minutes.

"Our guys have to understand that we're going to get everybody's best shot," Matta said. "That's what happens when you win the Big Ten two years in a row."

The Wolverines had plenty of opportunities in the first half shooting 44-percent from the field and holding Ohio State to 31 points.

"I think everyone enjoyed the basketball game," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "I feel bad for our kids, but we hung in to the end. Ohio State has worked on their defense all year and they play a very unique zone. They work all year on not letting guys penetrate and they do it very well. One of the areas you can attack is in the high post; we did not do that down the stretch."

DeShawn Sims provided the early spark for Michigan scoring the first six points for the Wolverines while the Buckeyes were more reliant on the long ball with Jamar Butler (10 points, 9 assists), Kosta Koufos (12 points, 4 rebounds) and David Lighty (12 points) all hitting three pointers early in the game.

Ohio State would open up a six point margin after Diebler converted on a pair of free throws but the lead would be short lived. Michigan nailed back-to-back threes from Anthony Wright (8 points, 4 assists) and Jevohn Shepherd (6 points). Michigan would stretch the lead to five points after a C.J. Lee (3 points) three point play.

The Bucks cut into the lead and would go to the halftime locker room down 32-31 to the underdog Wolverines. Koufos led the Bucks with eight points while Lighty had seven. Wright would lead Michigan would eight of his own and four assists.

"In the first half I think we lacked a little bit of energy," Diebler said. "They got us for a couple of offensive rebounds and they converted on it. In the second half I think we started rebounding better and gave them only one chance."

In the second half the teams traded the lead back and forth on the first four scoring possessions before the Wolverines started nailing three pointers for a second time. After a Grady[ three pointer Michigan was back up and then Ekpe Udoh (7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks) stretched the lead to five.

"They were really penetrating the ball and taking us off the perimeter," Lighty said. "They knew they had to just kick it out and hit the shot, which they did. What we needed to do was to stay with the wings and we started doing that as the game went on."

Ohio State would draw close on several occasions but never seemed to have enough to pull back ahead. Hunter had an explosive game with several follows and dunks to get the sell out crowd at Value City Arena on its feet.

"I don't think there is a better college basketball environment than what we had in there tonight," Matta said. "I hope the fans went home thinking that they helped the Buckeyes win a game tonight."

The crowd played a big role after Hunter went in for the flush near the eight minute mark and helped the Buckeyes force one of two Michigan shot clock violations. Diebler nailed a jumper at the 7:09 mark to knot it up at 52-all and then converted a pair of free throws to give the Bucks their first lead of the half.

The Wolverines had one last run left in them and cut it to one on an Udoh three pointer with 4:30 to go but those would be the last points that Michigan would score for the night.

"We were more specific in what we wanted to do," Matta said. "We put both ends of the floor together in the last five or six minutes. Once we got the lead, we played even harder."

Butler stepped up during clutch time at the end and helped the team pull away with a three pointer at the three minute mark and then a knifing drive with 1:20 to go to open the lead to six. The Wolverines couldn't find a stroke and the Buckeyes eventually opened it up to double digits and won by ten despite the game being much closer most of the way.

"I came out with energy I think," Hunter said. "Whatever it takes for my team and that is what I did."

After a disappointing loss to Iowa Butler challenged his teammates to give him some help out on the court, with five in double figures it appears the team got the message.

"Jamar said but also coach has challenged us since the Iowa game that players have got to make plays," Diebler said. "After the Iowa game in the last two practices we had coach and even Jamar challenged us and for the most part tonight that guys stepped up."

Ohio State doesn't play again until Saturday when Iowa comes to town for a 1:00 p.m. (EST) tip-off. Fans are urged to wear white for a "white-out" against the Hoosiers.

Game Leaders
Scoring
Ohio State - Hunter 15, Diebler 14, Koufos 12, Lighty 12, Butler 10
Michigan - Grady 11, Wright 8, Udoh 7, Harris 7

Rebounds
Ohio State - Hunter 12, Diebler 5, Koufos 4, Lighty 4
Michigan - Udoh 5, Coleman 3, Sims 3, Gibson 3, Grady 3

Assists
Ohio State - Butler 9, Diebler 2, Hunter 2
Michigan - Wright 4, Harris 3


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