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Men’s basketball: Ohio State – Michigan preview

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OSU sophomore guard C.J. Jackson directs the offense against Michigan State on Jan. 15 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won 72-67. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports Director

The story remains the same for Ohio State men’s basketball team.

The reeling Buckeyes (13-10, 3-7 Big Ten) go on the road to a venue where one can count the success of opposing teams on one hand. On Saturday at 6 p.m. OSU and Michigan will tip off inside the Crisler Center, a venue OSU last won at in 2011.

The last time OSU went on the road to a venue like this, the Buckeyes (13-10, 3-7 Big Ten) played arguably their worst game of the season against Iowa, which was without its leading scorer Peter Jok.

The Scarlet and Gray are currently tied for 12th in the conference after losing three of their last four, OSU will attempt to stave off a seemingly insurmountable 3-8 Big Ten record. In order to do that, the Buckeye defense will have to tighten up.

OSU has allowed 85 and 77 points in its last two games, which counters what made the team successful in the nonconference schedule.

“The word I’ve used since October with this group is consistency,” OSU coach Thad Matta said on Friday. “That’s the thing I think we have to continue to strive for with this basketball team. The effort side of that has to be there.”

Michigan

The Wolverines are 14-8 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten, looking for a win against an archrival after falling to its other nemesis last Sunday. Michigan lost to Michigan State in East Lansing, 70-62, dropping to 0-6 away from home.

However, the last time the Wolverines were in their own gym, coach John Beilein watched his team put on an offensive clinic against the Indiana Hoosiers. Six Wolverines scored double figures led by senior guard Derrick Walton, Jr. who had 21. As a team, Michigan shot more than 63 percent from the field and was 11 of 20 from behind the 3-point line.

Michigan shot just 33.9 percent against Michigan State.

While the Wolverines rank in the middle of the conference with 74.4 points per game, they are one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams. They average 1.14 points per possession, ranking 11th in the country with 120.3 points per 100 possessions according to KenPom’s advanced statistical analysis.

Michigan plays with one of the slowest tempos in the country averaging just 62 possessions per game. The only opponent OSU has faced with a slower tempo is Virginia.

“They have five guys that are interchangeable — including their center — which makes it hard,” junior forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “They have pretty good length and size with that. They have guys who are able to post our smaller defenders, but they also have guys who — when our bigs get switched on them have a hard time (guarding) on the perimeter.”

Seniors Zak Irvin and Walton lead the Wolverines with 13.7 and 13.5 points per contest. Michigan ranks fourth in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 38.2 percent.

The Game

OSU has been bitterly close in several conference games this year. The last three loses at home are by a combined nine points, all three of which were against teams currently in the Associated Press Top 25. But away from Columbus, OSU has lost four of its five Big Ten games on the road by an average of nearly 13 points.

“We still know that we’re so close, right there,” sophomore guard C.J. Jackson said. “We’re 3-7 right now, but we’re just a few plays away from being 7-3, so we still have fight in us.”

OSU has been hurt this week, mostly at the point guard position. Matta said on Friday that sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle injured his ankle and didn’t practice on Thursday. He also sat out Saturday morning’s shootaround indicating that he may not be good to go, which would turn the duties over to Jackson.

Without Lyle, the Buckeyes lose one of their best scorers, but gain a better defender in Jackson. Being able to lock down on the defensive side of the floor will be the key for OSU’s success, given that Michigan has the conference’s worst 3-point field goal defense. However, the Wolverines have allowed 51 less shots from 3 than all over Big Ten teams.

Against Iowa, redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson fouled out after 12 minutes of action with zero points. The Buckeyes will need his services on the glass and in the post to take advantage of Michigan’s lack of a true big man in the paint.

The truth of the matter is OSU hasn’t yielded much success in road games. While OSU fared better against Maryland at home on Tuesday, OSU showed its inability to get over the hump and once again trail by double digits in the second half.

Prediction: Ohio State – 58, Michigan – 68

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