Ann Arbor, MI (Sports Network) - Having recently dropped from the top spot in
the polls following a loss over the weekend, the third-ranked Michigan
Wolverines will attempt to bounce back on Tuesday night when they play host to
the 10th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in Big Ten Conference showdown.
Since losing at Michigan State on Jan. 19, Ohio State has ripped off four
consecutive wins to improve to 17-4 overall and climb into a tie for second
place in the Big Ten with a 7-2 league mark. The Buckeyes began their current
road trip on Saturday night with a 63-56 triumph over Nebraska to pull even
away from home at 3-3.
Following a 68-46 win over Northwestern on Jan. 30, Michigan was sitting at
20-1, its best start in program history which had allowed it to climb all the
way to the nation's No. 1 ranking, but continuing with the theme of the
2012-13 season, it did not hold that distinction for very long. The Wolverines
fell in a marquee matchup at No. 3 Indiana on Saturday night, 81-73, but the
good news is that they return home for this bout where they've won 28 of the
last 29 games at Crisler Center, including all 13 this season.
The Buckeyes have won seven of the last eight games in the series with the
Wolverines to take a 99-73 advantage in the all-time series, which includes a
56-53 triumph in Columbus on Jan. 13 to spoil Michigan's then-perfect season.
Despite shooting less than 40 percent from the field in Saturday's bout, Ohio
State was still able to hold on for the seven-point road win by holding
Nebraska to just 37.1 percent shooting and by outscoring the Cornhuskers from
the foul line by a commanding 23-4 margin. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. was perfect on
his six field goal attempts en route to a season-high 21 points. Deshaun
Thomas has seen more efficient days shooting (6-of-18), but he still finished
with 15 points, while Aaron Craft stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, six
assists, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal. The Buckeyes have enjoyed a
stellar year at the offensive end of the floor (71.8 ppg), but their elite
status has come mostly due to their fantastic 57.3 ppg scoring defense, which
is second to only Wisconsin in the Big Ten. Thomas is the conference's top
scorer with 20.0 ppg, making 40 percent of his 3-point attempts and 81.6
percent of his foul shots while also leading the team with 6.2 rpg. Smith is a
solid second option with 10.5 ppg, and Craft (9.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 1.9 spg) is
one of the nation's premiere perimeter defenders.
Michigan found itself down by as many as 15 points in the first half against
Indiana over the weekend, and while it fought hard down the stretch it could
not overcome the Hoosiers' outstanding effort from both the field (26-of-50)
and the foul line (22-of-25). The typically-potent Wolverines shot a modest
42.9 percent from the floor and made just seven trips to the charity stripe.
Trey Burke continued to show why he's considered an elite guard, tallying 25
points, eight assists and five rebounds. Tim Hardaway, Jr. netted 18 points,
while Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary chipped in 10 points apiece. Despite its
latest loss, Michigan's dominance has been well-documented this season, as it
is the only team in the Big Ten to rank in the top-four in both scoring
offense (77.8 ppg) and scoring defense (59.6 ppg). With 18.2 ppg, 7.2 apg, and
a .487 field goal percentage, Burke is well on his way to All-America honors.
Hardaway, Jr. (15.6 ppg) and Stauskas (12.5 ppg) have been outstanding from 3-
point range, combining to hit 96 treys at a 45 percent clip. Not to be lost in
the shuffle is Glenn Robinson III, who brings 11.7 ppg and a team-best 5.7 rpg
to the mix.
The Sports Network