If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Against the No. 22 Ohio State men’s basketball team Tuesday, No. 15 Michigan (18-6, 10-2, 1st in the Big Ten) got its chance to try again, and again and again.
During a tight stretch late in the second half with OSU only trailing by one point, the Buckeyes allowed their archrivals to pick up offensive rebounds on three consecutive possessions and stretch the lead to six points.
OSU (19-6, 6-6, 5th in the Big Ten) didn’t get closer than four for the remainder of the game.
The Wolverines outrebounded OSU, 14-8, on the offensive glass and topped the Buckeyes 39-27 in total rebounds. So far this season, Michigan is tied for 298th in the country (out of 351 teams) in offensive rebounds per game, only averaging 9.2 per outing.
OSU coach Thad Matta said a big part of OSU’s inability to stop the offensive rebounds was not being in position to get the ball.
“They got inside of us and forced our rotations and we didn’t sink to where we needed to,” Matta said. “Sometimes it’s a little-on-big and the deal is, you may not get it. That’s fine, but we can’t let him get it. They got a couple big rebounds and we just had to defend again, and we had to defend again, and that was just problematic for us.”
Matta added that an inability to pick up loose balls hurt OSU and allowed Michigan to get second chances on offense.
“From what I saw, we went to block some shots and the rotation wasn’t there where it needed to be,” Matta said. “We had a couple balls hit us in the hands and we didn’t come up with them. When the ball’s bouncing, 50-50 ball, you’ve got to come up with the basketball and we were just slow reacting to the ball.”
The game’s leading rebounder was Michigan freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr., who is all of 6 feet 1 inch tall and managed to bring in 10 total boards. Michigan graduate senior forward Jordan Morgan added eight rebounds of his own, including six on offense.
OSU’s leading scorer, junior forward LaQuinton Ross, said the domination came down to one thing: determination.
“At the end of the day they just wanted it more,” Ross said. “When you go back and look at the film, I’m sure we probably missed a lot of box-outs, and we knew coming into the game they (were) going to try to offensive rebound. They’re not that big of a team so we can’t blame it on that, but I think at the end of the day, we probably missed a lot of assignments so we have to be tougher on that part.”
The offensive rebounds not only helped Michigan get more opportunities to score, but prevented OSU from running the floor and scoring easy points in transition. On the night, the Buckeyes outscored Michigan 12-2 on fast break points, but couldn’t find the opportunities to run late in the game.
Senior guard Aaron Craft said allowing that many offensive rebounds could be a problem if it becomes the norm.
“It’s the offensive rebounds. We’ve done a pretty good job of that the last few games, and for some reason, we didn’t do it tonight,” Craft said after the game. “They got them when they needed it and they knocked down shots off of those offensive rebounds. We were getting a lot of our points rebounding and running and when they get the ball, we can’t do that.”
Next up, the Buckeyes are scheduled to travel to Champaign, Ill., to take on Illinois (14-10, 3-8). When the Buckeyes last played Illinois Jan. 23, they won 62-55 despite the Illini holding an 11-10 advantage in offensive rebounds.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday.
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