Ohio State head coach Thad Matta has often said that Value City Arena is one of the best environments in college basketball when the building is rocking.
With arch-rival Michigan in the house attempting to knock the No. 9 Buckeyes out of the race for the Big Ten title, the home team nearly blew the roof off the arena during a second-half run that helped them seize control of what would become a 66-55 victory.
“It’s a win if we want to say in the hunt,” junior center Dallas Lauderdale said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, rival or no rival. We’re just trying to get wins.”
OSU (23-7, 13-4 Big Ten) entered the game one half-game behind conference leader Purdue, which faces Michigan State on Sunday. Michigan (13-15, 6-10) entered the game simply hoping to salvage some pride in a season of high expectations that has fallen short.
The Wolverines held a one-point halftime advantage, but the Buckeyes scored the first four points of the second half to take a 36-33 lead. With Michigan still hanging around, the Buckeyes seized control during a frantic stretch that resembled a track meet.
With the OSU lead at 41-37, Michigan again worked the shot clock down before getting a wide-open three-pointer from guard Stu Douglass that did not fall. Buckeye junior forward David Lighty pushed the ball up the court and found sophomore guard William Buford for a layup, and the crowd of 18,862 rose to its feet.
With the crowd roaring, Michigan guard Manny Harris missed a deep three and the Buckeyes quickly tried to take advantage. At the other end, however, Buford had his attempt rejected by U-M forward DeShawn Sims.
Racing the other way, guard Zach Novak tried to lay one in only to have OSU junior guard Evan Turner grab the ball off the backboard with both hands, starting a break in the other direction. Junior guard Jon Diebler missed a three-pointer, but Turner came up with the offensive rebound and scored.
That made it 45-37 with 13:12 remaining and Michigan called a timeout. The lead would grow to 10 points two possessions later on a basket from Lauderdale, and Michigan drew no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Buford led the way with 24 points – two shy of his career high – and nine rebounds while playing the full 40 minutes. Turner was close behind with 18 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks but also committed eight turnovers. Lauderdale tied a career high with 14 points on 7 of 9 shooting, most of which came on alley-oop dunks from his teammates.
“I had a lot of good looks in the perimeter and my teammates were able to get me the ball,” Buford said. “I was just feeling it and knocking down shots.”
After the game, Beilein said the goal was to try and make someone aside from Turner beat his squad.
“Unfortunately they found Buford on too many as well,” the coach said. “You have to give up something to take something away.”
The last time these two teams faced each other, Lauderdale had eight points while Sims had a season-high 28. This time, the U-M big man was held to 11 points, tying three teammates for the scoring lead.
“I think Dallas was eager to play this game because DeShawn Sims had a monstrous game on him up there,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said.
Not among the scoring leaders for the Wolverines was Harris, who had 24 in that Jan. 3 contest in which Turner did not play. He had 10 points thanks to an 8-for-9 performance from the charity stripe after going 1 for 8 from the floor.
The Buckeyes came out hot and all signs pointed to a rout in progress. When Michigan head coach John Beilein called a timeout at the 17:09 mark, the Buckeyes led 9-0 and had connected on all four of their field goals. On the other end, Beilein’s team had missed its first three shots to that point, one of which was an airball.
His team’s immediate fortunes did not improve, as Michigan would miss its next two shots before Zach Novak connected on a three-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 15:45 remaining in the half to make the score 9-3 in favor of the Buckeyes.
In all, the Wolverines would miss seven of their first eight shots from the field and commit one turnover as the Buckeyes opened up an 11-6 lead. The other three U-M points came on three free throws from Novak, who was fouled by Diebler on a three-point attempt in the final seconds of the shot clock.
The Buckeyes still led by that early nine-point margin with 7:10 remaining in the half when Buford converted a layup on a nifty pass from Turner to make the score 23-14, but it was then that the visitors mounted a comeback.
Douglass hit a trey to cut it to 23-17 with 6:39 left, capping a stretch where the Wolverines hit on 5 of 7 from the field. It was the start of a 12-2 run punctuated by a fast-break layup from Novak at the 3:35 mark that made it 26-25. Michigan’s first lead of the afternoon did not last long as Buford put in an offensive rebound on his team’s next possession.
OSU would twice increase its lead to three points in the final moments, but a basket by Sims and two free throws from guard Darius Morris in the final minute allowed Michigan to head into the locker room with a 33-32 lead.
The run was aided by the fact that OSU’s top defender, junior David Lighty, sat for the final 6:16 after picking up his second foul. U-M outscored OSU 16-9 in his absence.
“It played a part of it because I thought Dave was really good defensively today and all over the place as we needed him to be,” Matta said. “It hurt us a little bit.”
Michigan turned seven first-half OSU turnovers into 12 points. Five of those turnovers came during the Buckeyes’ last 10 possessions of the half. That allowed the visitors to hold the lead despite the fact that OSU shot 63.6 percent (14 for 22) from the field, out-rebounded Michigan 13-8 and held Harris to two points on three shots.
After shooting 45.8 percent in the first half (11 for 24), Michigan was 6 for 23 (26.1 percent) in the final 20 minutes. OSU shot 58.7 percent (27 for 46) for the game.