Matta stunned by OSU’s poor shooting

Published 1:34 am Monday, February 20, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Thad Matta knows his team can shoot. That’s why the coach was stunned by Ohio State’s performance Saturday night.

The sixth-ranked Buckeyes shot 38.8 percent — almost 10 percentage points below their season average — and missed 13 of 16 3-pointers in a 56-51 loss to No. 17 Michigan.

“I’ve never coached a team that has worked harder at shooting the basketball than this one, and we are good at it,” Matta said. “There was one possession tonight where we missed a wide-open shot, got the rebound, missed another wide-open shot, got another rebound and missed a third wide-open shot.

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“As I told our kids after the game, at some point you have to hit something if you want to win.”

All-America forward Jared Sullinger struggled for Ohio State, hitting just six of 14 shots and turning the ball over three times.

“We couldn’t make a shot. We were running our offense, but we just couldn’t make a shot,” Sullinger said. “There are times when you don’t make shots and can grind out a win, but when we didn’t make shots tonight, we stopped playing defense.”

Ohio State (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten) and Michigan (20-7, 10-4) are now tied for second place in the Big Ten, a half-game behind Michigan State.

“This is a very special day for this program,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “There are a lot of small victories that come when you are rebuilding a program, and this was one of them.”

The star of the night was Sullinger’s high school teammate, a true freshman who was introduced to the fired-up crowd as, “The pride of Columbus, Ohio, Trey Burke.”

The point guard finished with 17 points, including a game-clinching runner with 11 seconds left that helped Michigan stop a six-game losing streak to the Buckeyes.

“I was going to call timeout, but I saw Trey had some room, and I trusted him to know what to do with a three-point lead in the final 20 seconds,” Beilein said. “He finished the game for us.”

Burke’s rainbow shot floated over Sullinger, hit high off the backboard and dropped through the net. Burke said he knew what kind of shot to take because of his history with the Ohio State star.

“Jared likes to take a lot of charges, so I knew he would be looking for that instead of trying to block my shot,” said Burke, who also had five assists. “I just wanted to pull up short and get it over him.”

Sullinger struggled in his head-to-head matchup with Michigan sophomore Jordan Morgan.

Morgan had his first career double-double, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds.

“He’s a great player, and we knew it was going to be tough to stop him,” Morgan said. “I just kept telling myself that we were playing for the championship tonight, and we needed this one.”

Matta, though, thought Morgan’s biggest contribution came outside the boxscore.

“I think he must have taken five charges, which has to be an NCAA record,” Matta said. “I just kept telling our kids to try to avoid contact whenever possible, because everything was getting called.”

Deshaun Thomas finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds for Ohio State, but Sullinger was the only other Buckeyes player to score more than six.

“We were taking good shots — they were open,” Thomas said. “We just weren’t knocking them down. Sully missed some shots that he normally makes, too.”

With the Michigan student section all revved up in its “Maize Rage,” the first half was a defensive struggle. Neither team was able to break 40 percent from the floor and Ohio State’s seven turnovers were the major difference — the Wolverines had only three while taking a 25-20 lead.

The Buckeyes missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half, but Thomas knocked one down on Ohio State’s first possession after the break.

Morgan, though, had a pair of fast-break dunks, both off long bounce passes from Burke, to give Michigan a 33-25 advantage. The lead got as big as 10 before three straight baskets by Sullinger pulled Ohio State within 42-38.

The Buckeyes couldn’t get any closer than three, however, and Burke’s layup made it 54-49 with 1:17 left.

Burke blocked a shot at the other end, then missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Aaron Craft made two free throws, but Burke ran the clock down to 11 seconds before hitting the clinching shot and sending the crowd into a frenzy.

The victory improved Michigan to 15-0 at the remodeled Crisler Center.

“I’ve never seen Crisler rocking like it was tonight,” Wolverines senior Zack Novak said. “This was really special.”