Ohio State coach Thad Matta juggled his lineup perhaps as much as he has in years to help Ohio State earn a road win Saturday at Michigan. You can see the final seconds by clicking here.
It wasn’t just a change to his starting lineup, either.
The Buckeyes used a season-high 17 different lineups consisting solely of recruited scholarship athletes, and many of them had been in mothballs. Less than half of them were used in last Tuesday’s loss to Maryland, and five of them hadn’t been used in at least the last two games.
The starting lineup of C.J. Jackson, Marc Loving, Jae’Sean Tate, Trevor Thompson and Kam Williams was the fifth different starting lineup used this season by coach Thad Matta. It wasn’t a lineup that had been used much this season, accumulating a total of 33 minutes and 28 seconds together and outscoring its opponents by 28 points. Those numbers are skewed significantly by the track meet that was the Marshall game, when that group put together a 16-2 run in a combined 3:16 together.
That group was broken up when JaQuan Lyle, Micah Potter and Andre Wesson came in and joined Tate and Williams in another seldom-used lineup. Those five players had appeared together only six times this year, three of which came during Big Ten play, and had outscored opponents 37-23 in a combined 15 minutes and 23 seconds. They inherited a 16-8 deficit and spent 30 seconds together before Tate picked up a second foul and was lifted for Loving.
That lineup – which had logged only 9 minutes and 31 seconds all season – scored the first three points of an 8-0 run that pulled Ohio State back into the game. But it was another seldom-used lineup that gave the Buckeyes the lead late in the first half.
With 4:31 to play and Michigan leading 30-24, Ohio State fielded a lineup of Jackson, Loving, Lyle, Thompson and Williams. It hadn’t been used in the last three games and had only logged 13 minutes and 47 seconds for the season while being outscored 20-13, but on this night it was on. During the next 3 minutes and 54 seconds, the Buckeyes outscored Michigan 12-4 and took the lead with 37 seconds left on a pair of Loving free throws.
The starters had a better opening to the second half, outscoring Michigan 9-4 during the first 5 minutes and 13 seconds. Potter and Lyle then replaced Thompson and Jackson, bringing last game’s starting unit of Loving, Lyle, Potter, Tate and Williams to the floor for the first time all game. Those five Buckeyes were outscored 3-2 in only 1 minute and 43 seconds.
Another seldom-used lineup – see a pattern developing here? – entered with 13:04 to play and Ohio State leading 47-42. During the next four minutes, Loving, Lyle, Tate, Thompson and Wesson pushed the lead to seven points at 54-47 after having played a total of 8 minutes and 14 seconds together entering the game.
With Michigan hanging around, Matta put a lineup of Jackson, Potter, Tate, Wesson and Williams on the court with 8:09 to play and Ohio State ahead 54-50. That group hadn’t played together since the Fairleigh Dickinson game back on Dec. 3, but it rose to the occasion against the Wolverines. Ohio State inched its lead to five points at 58-53 with 5:57 to play with those five on the court.
They handed it off to what has been Ohio State’s primary Big Ten starting lineup, which did not play together until this point. It was broken up with 2:50 to play and the five-point lead down to three at 63-60.