Michigan (24-7, 15-3) advanced to the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament with a narrow 64-63 victory over Illinois. Next up for the Wolverines will be the Ohio State Buckeyes (25-8, 10-8). Tip off is scheduled for 1:40 pm and the game will be televised on CBS.
About Ohio State
The Buckeyes knocked off Nebraska in their quarterfinal match up. They required a furious second half comeback to defeat the upstart Cornhuskers. LaQuinton Ross paced Ohio State with 26 points and 13 boards. He was the only starter for the Buckeyes to reach double digits in scoring.
The offensively challenged Buckeyes are on a three game winning streak in which they have won by 4, 2, and 2 points. Translation, they will be a tough out for Michigan. Aaron Craft is, of course, a menace and I for one will be glad this is the last time I have to watch him play against the Wolverines.
Lenzelle Smith Jr has played well against Michigan throughout his career, so he will be a player to keep an eye on. Sam Thompson is an above the rim player in the mold of Glenn Robinson III and, at times, Amir Williams can be a force in the paint for Thad Matta.
Michigan continues to roll
The Wolverines have been a resilient bunch all season long. It started with the loss of Mitch McGary and a 6-4 record to begin the season. They responded by winning 18 of the next 21 games, which includes the current six game winning streak they are on. They’ve come from behind in several games, sometimes from double digit deficits. They’ve been down, but never out.
The narrow victory over Illinois was just the latest example of this trend. Michigan plays with confidence and you never see them panic to the point where they start taking ill advised shots. They stay within John Beilein’s masterful system and trust that doing that will bring about positive results.
Perhaps the biggest example of Michigan’s resiliency is none other than Jordan Morgan. He was rendered nearly obsolete in last year’s tournament run and was looking at a senior season playing in the shadow of Mitch McGary. However, he stayed the course, never stopped working and has now become a major component of Michigan’s on court success. With his game-winner against Illinois in the quarterfinals, he has now come full circle from missing the potential game-winner in last year’s regular season finale against Indiana.
There is no love lost between these two teams. Add to that, the fact that Ohio State has owned Michigan in recent years and you know this game is going to be a classic. These teams played just once during the regular season, at Ohio State, a game that Michigan won by a final margin of 70-60. A Michigan victory here would start to turn the tides of the rivalry in favor of the Wolverines.
The bad news for the Buckeyes is, there’s pretty much no way Nik Stauskas goes 2-10 from three point range like he did in the Illinois win. Look for a more efficient performance from the Wolverines and their Big Ten Player of the Year in this contest. Columbus native, Caris LeVert will also be a handful for the defensive-minded Buckeyes,
This has all the makings of a back and forth game. In the end Michigan has more shot makers and more offensive firepower than the Buckeyes. Michigan wins a close one 68-60.
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