Buckeyes slip by Wolverines

Published 2:22 am Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Brady Hoke arrived at his courtside seat, drawing an immediate cheer from the crowd. Then the new Michigan football coach settled in to watch the Wolverines play their fiercest rivals in basketball.

Ohio State took it all in stride.

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William Buford scored 19 points and the No. 2 Buckeyes went on a 12-0 run in the second half before holding on to beat Michigan 68-64 on Wednesday night.

The Wolverines trailed by 12 in the second half before a desperate rally fell short in front of a home crowd that was fired up from the moment Hoke walked in shortly after the opening tip.

“It’s Ohio State and Michigan,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “You’ve got two really good programs going head to head in a big-time college environment.”

Hoke was introduced earlier in the day as the new leader of the Michigan football program, and he and athletic director Dave Brandon arrived at the basketball game right after it started. Fans began chanting the new coach’s name, but by the end, their focus was on the court.

The Wolverines (11-6, 1-3 Big Ten) rallied from a 53-41 deficit, pulling within 64-62 when Zack Novak made two free throws with 22.3 seconds left. Michigan then fouled Buford, who made a pair of free throws with 18.6 seconds to play.

Darius Morris scored on a drive with 12.4 seconds to go, but Aaron Craft made two more free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining and Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a 3-pointer at the other end.

David Lighty and Jared Sullinger scored 12 points each for the Buckeyes (17-0, 4-0), who equaled their best start since 1961-62.

“It’s a real honor,” Buford said. “We can do some big things this year. If we keep it up, we’re going to go far.”

Morris scored 18 points and Novak added 16 for Michigan. Evan Smotrycz scored 14 points for the Wolverines, including a 3-pointer that tied it at 41 not long after halftime.

The Buckeyes scored the next 12 points. Jon Diebler made a 3-pointer to put Ohio State up by seven and Sullinger dunked off a quick spin move. A 3-pointer by Craft made it 53-41.

“We’re close, but to get over the hump, you’ve got to be better than the breaks, you’ve got to be better than the other team,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “You’ve got to stay so focused. You’ve got to be better than any calls that don’t go your way.”

Michigan trailed 58-53 when Smotrycz missed a 3-pointer in transition, and Sullinger and Lighty made two free throws apiece.

Novak made a 3-pointer and Morris added a putback for Michigan to make it 62-58. The score was 64-60 when Novak was fouled while missing a 3-pointer from the corner with under 30 seconds to play, but he missed one of his free throws, and the Buckeyes made theirs to prevent the Wolverines from having a chance to tie.

Ohio State’s last 11 points came on free throws. The Buckeyes were held without a field goal for the last 8:36.

Michigan did a good job containing Sullinger, the 6-foot-9 freshman who has scored in double figures in all but two games this season. Although he scored a dozen points, he also turned the ball over six times and fouled out with 1:19 remaining.

“They were basically running the kitchen sink on Jared,” Matta said. “I think he’ll learn from this game.”

Little was expected of the Wolverines this season, but they’ve shown some potential, taking Kansas to overtime Sunday before falling.

“It’s something we can build on,” Novak said. “We’re starting to turn the corner, but we have to get over the hill. We can see the other side, I think, but we’ve got to get there.”

Michigan made four early 3-pointers and took a 16-10 lead, but Ohio State made short work of that. The Buckeyes shot 62 percent from the field in the first half and entered halftime with a 35-34 lead.

Both teams finished the game at 52 percent from the field, but Ohio State went 17 of 25 on free throws for a huge advantage over Michigan, which was 5 of 7.

The Buckeyes have done a good job all season in that regard. Opponents are now attempting only 10.9 free throws per game against them.

Ohio State started 27-0 in 1960-61 and 22-0 the following season. The 1990-91 Buckeyes started 17-0, a mark this team has now reached.

Jim Jackson, who played on that ’90-91 team, was at the game as a Big Ten Network analyst.

“The comparison is there’s veteran leadership on this team like there was on that team when I was a sophomore,” Jackson said. “When you have that, it helps you weather the storm when you’re not shooting well.”