Post-Game: Wow. What a game, a lot of thoughts on this one. The first half was fun to watch, a lot of up and down and high scoring. A Big Ten game high scoring? Letting OSU shoot 68% in the first half was clearly not good defense but in the second half we tightened up and held them to 33%. We cut down on Butler’s penetration and made Koufas work for his points. In the first 5 minutes we really stuck it to Koufas and he was rattled and got pulled. We were up about 4 points with 4 minutes left and I got a little deja vu but this team held in there and showed a lot of heart with 3 freshman and 2 sophomores on the court.
David Merritt: What can you say. Kid had the crowd going wild in the first half and was just making plays NOBODY ever thought he would make. We were struggling to score and he made big buckets three times. He should have had one more layup and that desperation three at the end almost went.
Manny Harris: This is our leader, and luckily he’s only a freshman. I am fully confident that Manny will lead this team back where they need to go. Kid was hitting his threes and if he is making those he is too versatile to guard. He has the slow release on his three with the knee bend but its almost like that helps him with his pump fake. Made the big free throws down the stretch (unlike that other Harris) and gutted out the win.
DeShawn Sims: Hit some huge threes, but most importantly had 7 rebounds. Kid might finally be getting it, you have to go hard for 40 minutes. He also did a great job on defense I thought, sticking with smaller guys off switches a lot. He has gotten a lot of flak all year for his poor defense but he might be turning the corner.
Another great part about today was everyone stepping up and making plays when they were needed. Ant Wright had a three and a facial on the baseline (notice Ant played 27 minutes and Ronnie only 15). Zack Gibson had a huge offensive rebound and put back. Ekpe was a monster on D with 6 blocks (and 4 steals and 5 points) also hit his free throws at the end. Kelvin Grady with the big time steal and a couple huge buckets that made up for his lackluster play early.
Great effort, the crowd was great. Rich Rodriguez was great at halftime, Beilein went and thanked the Maize Rage before the game as well for their support through tough times all year. Let’s hope this is the start of turning the corner. Also one other note, this Matta/Beilein rivalry is personal and it has history. Could make for a fun series between Michigan and Ohio State in both sports. These two guys know each other from their Richmond/Xavier days.
Recruiting Note: Zack Novak was in attendance.
Half-Time Update From Crisler: Crisler is amped. We have to pull this game out. Ohio State is shooting 68% and we are in the game. Rich didn’t make any predictions FYI.
Pre-Game: Last years Ohio State game still pains me, that final 3:54 when a 61-57 lead turned to a 65-61 loss. The Courtney Sims missed dunk and Dion Harris missed front-end summed up the Tommy Amaker era. So close yet so far. This is clearly a new team this year as current players played only 23% of the minutes in that game (Ekpe, Coleman, DeShawn, Shepherd) and combined for only 6 points.
Ohio State is a new team as well and have had their ups and downs this year. Playing a solid schedule OSU only has one bad loss and that is at Iowa. Without many quality wins they are firmly on the bubble, similar to past Michigan teams who beat who they were supposed to but not much more. A loss to Michigan would certainly hurt their tournament chances.
OSU is a two headed monster powered by Jamar Butler (36 minutes per game) and freshman phenom Kosta Koufas. I wrote after the game in Columbus that we came up with another moral victory (close game for 35 minutes) but eventually fell apart down the stretch to Ohio State’s pressure D. Butler also killed us as he controlled the game and seemed to have his way with Grady and get in the lane whenever he wanted.
The hope for Michigan is that probability has to catch up and we have to beat Ohio State eventually. But seriously, we played them to a close game getting only 13 points out of Manny and DeShawn combined. DeShawn has been rediscovering his game and the role players have continued to improve.
The game is sold out tomorrow, lets hope there are not too many Buckeyes in the crowd and Michigan fans can come out (Hey it’s Rich Rodriguez’ introduction, that’s gotta help right?). Also don’t forget the first fans there will receive a John Beilein signed hat. Be sure to check out Eleven Warriors preview of the game for the Ohio State side of things.
UMHoops Prediction: (Optimist alert) This team finally comes together and gets a big win, Michigan 67-OSU 65. Let’s hear your predictions…