GAME NOTES: The second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes put their unblemished record on the line this evening in Ann Arbor, as they take on the Michigan Wolverines in Big Ten action at Crisler Arena.
Thad Matta's Buckeyes look to be the favorite in the Big Ten this season and haven't done much to make people think otherwise. The team has won all 16 of its games this season, including three straight to open league play, including a 67-64 decision over Minnesota on Sunday, showing OSU's resolve in a tight affair.
The Wolverines were in their own slugfest this past weekend, but after taking third-ranked Kansas to overtime, John Beilein's squad was unable to keep pace, falling in the extra session, 67-60. The loss was the second straight for Michigan, which comes into this matchup with a 1-2 league mark.
OSU holds an 87-71 series advantage overall, but Michigan is 44-35 in games played in Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes have won four of the last five meetings with the Wolverines and are 29-4 in the series as a ranked team.
The 16-0 start is the best in Matta's seven years at the helm. The Buckeyes are a complete team that has dominated the competition at both ends of the floor for the most part. Enjoying a stellar +25.1 scoring margin, OSU is shooting just over 50 percent from the floor and putting up 81.2 ppg, while allowing a mere 56.1 ppg. Freshman Jared Sullinger is certainly one of the top newcomers in the nation. The 6-9 youngster is converting over 58 percent of his shots from the floor and is averaging a double-double with team-highs of 17.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
A trio of veteran guards follow in David Lighty (13.1 ppg), William Buford (13.3 ppg) and Jon Diebler (12.3 ppg). Another freshman, Deshaun Thomas (10.5 ppg) completes the team's potent scoring depth. Minnesota's three-point attempt in the final seconds came up short, keeping OSU unbeaten on the season. Lighty led the charge for the Buckeyes with 19 points. Sullinger notched another double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Aaron Craft came off the bench to tally 11 points and seven assists.
A sluggish start put Michigan in a hole at the break against Kansas, but the Wolverines battled back after halftime to force overtime, just to go cold again in the extra session. The guard trio of Tim Hardaway Jr., Darius Morris and Zack Novak led the way for Michigan. Hardaway posted 19 points and seven rebounds, Morris added 16 points and seven assists, while Morris finished with 12 points.
For the second straight game, Michigan will be overmatched offensively. The Wolverines are averaging a modest 67.4 ppg on .434 shooting. Morris is both the team's top scorer (15.2 ppg) and distributor (7.3 apg). Hardaway adds 11.3 ppg as the only other double-figure scorer. Jordan Morgan (8.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Zack Novak (8.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg) add some support.
Playing two of the top three teams in the country back-to-back is a daunting task and although the Wolverines almost pulled off the huge upset over the weekend against Kansas, playing up to that level against a familiar foe in Ohio State may be a little tougher by comparison.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Crisler Arena (13,751) -- Ann Arbor, Michigan. Television: BTN. Home Record: Ohio St. 12-0, Michigan 10-2. Away Record: Ohio St. 4-0, Michigan 1-1. Neutral Record: Ohio St. 0-0, Michigan 0-2. Conference Record: Ohio St. 3-0, Michigan 1-2. Series Record: Ohio State leads, 87-71.
Ohio State 74, Michigan 65