Notes: After entertaining loss to Michigan, Ohio State hoops not counting itself out
This was always going to be a measuring stick for Ohio State.
Winners of seven straight and 10 of their past 11, the No. 4 Buckeyes came to Value City Arena on Sunday to host No. 3 Michigan in a nationally televised CBS game. Three weeks from Selection Sunday, the eyes of the sports world were focused on a pair of teams projected as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
It didn’t disappoint, even if the final result was disappointing to the Buckeyes. Duane Washington Jr. poured in a career-high 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, but the Wolverines had too much on the offensive end for Ohio State to match in what would be a 92-87 win.
Michigan’s offensive efficiency rating of 136.7 was the worst allowed by the Buckeyes this season. Ohio State’s offensive efficiency rating of 129.3 was its fourth-highest of the season and best in a loss. It meant that, this time, the offense couldn’t overcome what the defense was allowing.
But man, what a game.
“Hard-fought game,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought both teams competed. Both teams were really good offensively. Really made shots. I think you’ve got to give them credit. They were able to get enough stops there when we turned it over, they had a couple offensive rebounds in a key sequence and ultimately I think that was the difference.”
That sequence he referenced came with about six minutes to play and the game tied at 69. Michigan, which was unconscious from three at the half, missed three three-pointers but came up with each offensive rebound to extend the possession. It finally ended with a Chaundee Brown bucket with 5:45 to play, giving Michigan a 71-69 lead.
E.J. Liddell missed a three at the other end, Hunter Dickinson missed a shot, grabbed his own rebound, drew a foul and hit both free throws to make it a four-point lead and Michigan wouldn’t trail again.
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“It certainly was an important moment,” Holtmann said of the Brown basket. “I don’t ever look at it as a turning point but it was an important moment where we can’t beat good teams and allow that number of shots on goal. We’ve got to do better at coaching and playing that.”
Michigan would push its lead as high as nine points from there, but Ohio State still made it a three-point game on a Washington three with 3.4 seconds left before Eli Brooks closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds left.
“It was a great game, man,” Washington said. “Battle of two top-five teams. I thought we competed at a really high level. Just got be a little bit better in the last war. We thought we were in good position to bring it home.”
With four minutes to go, CJ Walker was set to go to the free-throw line as Michigan led 75-72. In the huddle, sophomore forward E.J. Liddell said the mood was upbeat.
“It was no pressure,” he said. “Everybody emphasizes winning time and these situations we come out on top. I feel like we approached it like every other game. It shows why they’re the No. 3 team, really good team.”
After coming up short, Holtmann was asked if appreciated the quality of the game.
“It’s hard to feel that way being on the losing end of it,” he said. “It was a game certainly that was played with great pace and for the most part really good execution offensively. Guys made a lot of shots. We’ve got to figure out how to move forward.”
The Wolverines entered the game second in Big Ten play, shooting 39.2% from three-point range.
At the half, they were 10 for 13 (76.9%) from deep and held a 45-43 lead.
“They did a great job shooting the ball in the first half,” Washington said. “Credit to them. I didn’t think our details were great. They had a lot of rhythm threes. You give them those, (they) get them rolling. Ten threes in the first half is unacceptable. It’s hard to win like that.”
The second half would be a different story, as Michigan would make just 1 of 10 to finish 11 for 23 (47.8%).
“They’ve got a good shooting team,” Holtmann said. “Some guys’ numbers were better in the first half, they were making shots at a higher clip than their percentages have shown. Some of it was a by-product of us being in scramble situations worrying about the big fella too much but they also made some big shots.
“It was able to level out a little bit. I thought CJ’s ball pressure at the point of attack helped, but give them credit. They made some hard ones and some of it was our coverage.”
The “big fella” was Dickinson, and he would make his presence felt after halftime. The 7-1 freshman would score 16 of his team-high 22 during the second half.
“I think a lot’s being made of that (size) but there were other guys that impacted us in a significant way,” Holtmann said. “We were also able to attack him in some areas and play that to our advantage. That’s what you have to try to do when you don’t have maybe the same size.”
E.J. Liddell cools off
During the first half, the Buckeyes primarily stuck senior Kyle Young on Dickinson but saw him draw Liddell when Ohio State had the ball. At the half, the Buckeye sophomore had 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, some of which were seemingly impossible jumpers over the taller Dickinson.
During the second half, Liddell would score nine points while shooting just 2 for 7 from the field.
“He’s a big dude,” Liddell said of Dickinson. “He’s probably six inches taller than me. I just have to adjust. Sometimes I didn’t, sometimes I did. I felt like I did well most of the game on that.”
Depth goes missing
Washington had 30 points, Liddell had 23 and senior guard CJ Walker finished with 15. Those three combined for 78.2% of Ohio State’s scoring.
Young had five points on five shots. Justice Sueing had six second-half points after missing all three first-half shots. Justin Ahrens went scoreless on two three-point attempts.
Ohio State’s depth has carried a lot of water this season. In a game where the Buckeyes scored 87 points and still lost, they didn’t get enough from multiple players. Michigan had five players in double figures and a sixth finish with nine points.
“They’re a good defensive team,” Holtmann said. “I had no issue with our attack offensively. I thought we played really well offensively. Our guys made plays. They were obviously smothering Justin and he wasn’t able to get some freedom. Kyle, I thought they did a good job getting physical with him. A couple of other guys had off nights. I had no issue with our offensive attack.”
Justice Sueing turns it over
It didn’t decide the game, but one turnover by the fourth-year junior forward helped Michigan pull away during the final minutes.
With Michigan ahead 77-74 after Ohio State’s defense forced Eli Brooks to miss a contested shot as the shot clock wound down, Ohio State brought the ball up the court and got it to Sueing along the left wing. With two teammates including Liddell in close proximity, the left-handed Sueing attempted a behind-the-back pass toward the middle of the court and, he hoped a waiting teammate.
Instead, both Buckeyes in the vicinity were facing the basket and didn’t know the pass was coming. It seemingly hung in the air for a minute before Michigan’s Isaiah Livers knifed into the area, grabbed the ball and burst upcourt. Sueing chased him and fouled the Wolverine as he scored, and the three-point play made it an 80-74 lead with 2:33 to play.
Ohio State wouldn’t get within one possession and have the ball again.
“We just had a poor execution,” Holtmann said. “We were talking about the execution on that particular play. We just had, we were trying to get what we want. I think we would’ve got it, he just made a read I’m not quite sure why.”
Washington said he would work with Sueing to keep his spirits up entering Thursday’s game at Michigan State and offered full-throated support for his teammate.
“I’ve been in that position,” he said. “I remember it like it was yesterday. Everybody makes mistakes, man. I know he’s going to get Twitter beefed and everyone telling him to do whatever things to himself and all this kind of crap. It’s the beauty of playing here at a top-major school. He just needs to keep his head on straight.
“He played a good game. Shots just didn’t go in. One little mistake at the end of the game isn’t why we lost the game. That’s the truth. Definitely could’ve played better, but everyone could. I’m going to keep talking to him. He’ll be fine. He’ll be back better than ever.”
Unprecedented game, unprecedented loss
The showdown with Michigan marked the first top-five game in the history of the rivalry, and it was also only the fifth time Ohio State had hosted such a game regardless of opponent.
The Buckeyes had been 4-0 in the prior such games, one of which looks little like the other. Here are the four games leading into today:
November 29, 2011: No. 2 Ohio State 85, No. 3 Duke 63
February 25, 2007: No. 2 OSU 49, No. 1 Wisconsin 48
February 17, 1991: No. 2 OSU 97, No. 4 Indiana 95, 2OT
March 25, 1950: No. 2 OSU 72, No. 4 Holy Cross 52
So if someone ever asks you what Duke, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Holy Cross have in common, you have the answer.
Musa Jallow out
After playing his most minutes in two months but suffering a late injury to his left ankle in Thursday’s win at Penn State, junior wing Musa Jallow was unavailable against the Wolverines.
Jallow was on the court for 24 minutes in the 92-82 win against the Nittany Lions but landed on someone’s foot when attempting to pull down a rebound. His status going forward is unknown.
“Significant amount of swelling in his ankle from after the game until all the way until this morning,” Holtmann said. “We’ll see when that goes down.”
“Listen, disappointed. There’s no question. You lose a game, you’re disappointed. The expectation for us was we were going to play well. In spots we did play well. We didn’t finish the game well enough. I thought our guys competed and battled. There’s no question. We played the right way. Offensively I thought we had a great spirit about us. It’s disappointing. That’s the overall sentiment and we’ll figure out as coaches what we can do to move forward. Give them credit for playing well and give their team credit. I think they deserve it.” – Holtmann, on his feelings about the game.
“We can hang with them and we showed that. We just didn’t make them miss. We made a lot of shots ourselves. Giving up that many threes to them in the first half did it.” – Liddell
“We know what we’re capable of and what our plan is to do here. Everybody wishes we could get this one back.” – Washington