Ohio State - Michigan: Postgame Analysis

Ohio State - Michigan: Postgame Analysis

The difference between winning and losing often comes down to one mistake here, one critical shot there. That was evident Saturday in the game between Michigan and Ohio State. Kyle Lamb breaks things down in his postgame analysis and observations.

Good For Michigan, Bad For Ohio State

* If you're Michigan, you've got to like how three of the four seniors went out on a high note, even in defeat. Seniors Dion Harris, Courtney Sims and especially Brent Petway played with a lot of emotion and energy on Saturday in their last regular season game at Crisler Arena.

* Speaking of Petway, his length and athleticism was tough for Ohio State to overcome, especially when Greg Oden was on the bench. Petway's ability to "get up," made it difficult for Oden to block shots and even tougher for Ohio State to keep him off the glass. Petway was flawless inside of eight feet, scoring 11 points and grabbing eight boards.

* It was a predictable but flat beginning for the Buckeyes Saturday. Much like UCLA against Washington, Ohio State let down it's guard against a jacked up basketball team. Sure, Ohio State had little to play for having already clinched the Big Ten Championship and No. 1-seed in the conference tournament, but with a No. 1-seed in the big dance hanging in the balance even still, one would think it would take less than 36 minutes to wake up and smell the coffee. Still, credit Michigan for playing with such emotion.

* It was a classic case of Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde for the Wolverines from their guards. Jerret Smith played one of his best games in many ways, scoring 10 points and dishing out seven assists. The bad? He had six turnovers, many of which were late in the game. Smith and Harris combined on 10 of  Michigan's 13 turnovers Saturday. Harris alone accounted for 19 points and four assists, but four turnovers were crucial in the Ohio State comeback effort.

* Credit Michigan for staying true to their gameplan for 40 minutes. When Oden was in the game, Michigan attacked him and tried drawing fouls - successfully. When he left the floor, Michigan was even more relentless by taking advantage of matchup issues when Ohio State had Matt Terwilliger defending Sims or Petway.

* Ohio State's ball movement was lackluster at best in the first half. Not only did Oden get but four or five touches, the Buckeyes were settling for stand-still three-pointers.

* On the other end, especially early in the game, Ohio State's 2-3 zone, which has been much improved over the last several weeks of the season, was stale and stagnant. There was little activity along the wings and often, Harris or other Michigan shooters were given too much freedom to take a shot.

* While freshman David Lighty has been such a lift all season defensively for the Buckeyes, his offense has been somewhat of a disappointment for Ohio State. His lack of outside shot and confidence in doing so has made him a one-dimensional player on the offensive end. However, Lighty remains a key ingredient to any success in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament due not only to his defensive prowess, but because of fatigue and potential foul problems with the Buckeye perimeter players.

Good For Ohio State, Bad For Michigan

* Turnovers killed Michigan, who shot a respectable 20-of-44 from the field, 5-of-13 from three-point range and 16-of-22 from the charity stripe. More important to Ohio State than the fact they only committed eight turnovers in their own right is that the Buckeyes made Michigan pay for their mistakes.

* Point guard Mike Conley was just 1-of-5 from behind the arc Saturday, below his season average of 32 percent from three-point range. A testament, however, to his importance is the sequence where he drained an open three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 61, and then come up with a steal and dished to Jamar Butler for a layup giving Ohio State a lead. Conley often scores at-will off the dribble and a strong case can be made that he, not Oden, is the team's MVP.

* When Michigan was having their way with Ohio State in the first half, it was Ron Lewis and Othello Hunter that bailed out the Buckeyes. Ohio State trailed by as much as eight points in the first half and Lewis made two critical baskets on back-to-back possessions late in the first half, closing Ohio State to within 31-29. Hunter, on the other hand, also had a lot of damage before picking up a third first-half foul. Hunter finished the game with eight points and a pair of rebounds.

* The Oden effect largely dictated the last four minutes for Ohio State. Defensively he altered a few shots, but more decisively, he scored in crunch-time for the Buckeyes. A good sign for Ohio State down the stretch is that Oden is using his right hand for free throws - meaning he's comfortable to begin utilizing his strong hand at full capacity.

On one hand, Ohio State shot just 4-of-19 from three-point range. Butler and Daequan Cook were a combined 2-of-15 from the floor. The Buckeyes were out-rebounded, out-hustled (for much of the game), out-manned (by foul problems) and looked flat on the road in a somewhat meaningless game for their tournament resume. That's the bad news for Ohio State.

The good news for the Buckeyes is despite all of that, playing in front of a pumped-up home crowd against a group of motivated seniors and being down most of the game against an NCAA Tournament-hungry club, Ohio State still managed to find a way to win.

Some may say Michigan simply blew the lead. Others may say Ohio State closed out the game like a No. 1-team should.

Regardless of semantics, Ohio State won another game despite playing less than perfectly. It's true Ohio State often doesn't play as well as a No. 1-ranked team should play. However, unlike UCLA, Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina or Florida, the Buckeyes also have not lost any games they should not have lost on paper. That's the biggest difference.

As for Michigan, you've got to like the effort they gave this week. Michigan came up with a key home victory against in-state rival Michigan State and were within a few sloppy possessions of possibly closing out victory against the top team in the land. Michigan will be in a holding pattern in the coming weeks awaiting the future of head coach Tommy Amaker.

Will he stay or will he go?

Moral victories will not cut it any longer for Michigan fans. Despite giving a great effort against Ohio State, that's the crux of the problem - it's time for results.

The bottom line works for everyone - a win is a win, especially in March.

Sure, Ohio State is very talented. But if there is any better example of parity in college basketball and how very little a difference there is in winning and losing, look no further than the last four minutes of the game on Saturday. One team made plays down the stretch another team made mistakes. It's a very fine line.

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