On a night where Ohio State will honor 2010 National Player of the Year, Evan Turner, the Buckeyes will be fighting to keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Ohio State is coming off a 79-69 win over Rutgers on Saturday, in which Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate both recorded double-doubles. It was the second time this year where Bates-Diop and Tate have both registered a double-double in the same game. The last time two Buckeyes posted a double-double in the same game with each player scoring at least 20 points was in March 1986, when Brad Sellers and Dennis Hopson did so against Ohio.
Aside from Bates-Diop and Tate, the only other Buckeye who reached double figures in scoring was Kam Williams, who accounted for 19 of the 21 Ohio State bench points. Williams had little trouble in finding his range in Piscataway, drilling five three-pointers in the victory, which matched his season-high. Ohio State hit nine three-pointers in a game for the fifth time this season, with the last time the Buckeyes reached that number prior to Saturday coming in the December victory over Kentucky.
Had Ohio State not found their stroke from behind the arc on Saturday, the Buckeyes might have been the first Big Ten team to drop a game to Rutgers this year. Even though the Buckeyes had 17 assists, they were still sloppy with the basketball, turning the ball over 19 times. Saturday's game was the 19th time this year in which Ohio State has registered more turnovers than assists.
After strong performances early in the week in the win over Northwestern, Marc Loving and JaQuan Lyle weren't able to build off those performances on Saturday against Rutgers. Loving had his worst game of the season for the Buckeyes, missing all five shots he attempted in 16 minutes on the floor. Lyle didn't provide much more offense, scoring just four points in 26 minutes. Luckily for Ohio State, the efforts of Bates-Diop, Tate, and Williams, made up for the lack of production from Loving and Lyle.
As if playing their rival wasn't enough, the Buckeyes will honor Evan Turner at halftime of tonight's game. One of Turner's most memorable moments in the scarlet and gray came against the Wolverines in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, where Turner hit a 37-footer as time expired to give Ohio State a 69-68 win. Turner will join Jerry Lucas, Gary Bradds, Jim Jackson, and John Havlicek in having their numbers recognized by the school.
Michigan is riding their own two-game winning streak, with their latest win coming on Saturday in Ann Arbor against Purdue. The Wolverines trailed 56-50 with three minutes left in the game, but finished the game on a 11-0 run to pull the upset over the Boilermakers. Zak Irvin led the Michigan comeback charge, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the second half.
After missing out on the NCAA Tournament last year, snapping a streak of four straight years in which they made the tournament, Michigan looks to be in good shape to get back to the big dance this year. The Wolverines have compiled a 19-7 record so far this season, and sit fourth in the Big Ten conference, two games behind Iowa and just a game behind Maryland and Indiana.
The Wolverines received a boost on Saturday with the return of Caris Levert, who had missed the previous 11 games with a leg injury. The senior from Pickerington saw 11 minutes of playing time, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out an assist. The return of Levert bolsters Michigan's backcourt, which will be without senior Spike Albrecht, who ended his Michigan playing career in December due to hip issues. Despite missing nearly a dozen games, Levert still leads Michigan in scoring this season, averaging 16.5 points per game.
The Wolverines were able to take down Purdue despite shooting uncharacteristically poorly from behind the arc. Michigan hit a season-low five three-pointers after coming into the game averaging 10.5 three-pointers per game, which is best in the Big Ten and sixth-best in the country. Six Michigan players have hit at least 20 three-pointers this year, with Duncan Robinson sinking a team-high 77 three-pointers. The best performance of the season from long range for the Wolverines this year came in December, when Michigan hit 17 three-pointers in the win over Bryant.
Michigan needs to be clicking from behind the arc since they don't have a lot of size on the inside. Unlike Ohio State, who has blocked 143 shots this year, Michigan has swatted just 59 shots. The Wolverines did play bigger on Saturday against Purdue though, earning a 39-35 rebounding edge over the Boilermakers. It marked the first time this year the Boilermakers had been out-rebounding by their opponent. 6-1 guard Derrick Walton Jr. is the top rebounder for Michigan, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game.
Numbers to know
Ohio State is pretty much automatic under Thad Matta when they have the lead with five minutes to go. On Saturday the Buckeyes improved to 16-0 this season when they are leading with five minutes to go. During his time at Ohio State, Matta's teams have compiled a 293-14 record when they take a lead into the last five minutes of the game.
Kam Williams might not get quite as much time on the court as the starters, but he makes the most of his opportunities. The sophomore is leading the Big Ten with a 48.8 shooting percentage from three-point range. Williams has attempted 82 three-pointers this year, making 40 of them.
Michigan has gotten used to having to deal with injuries. Between Albrecht, Levert, and a couple other Wolverines, Michigan has a total of 34 games lost to injury this season. Last year was even worse for Michigan, as lost 58 games to injury. Factor in the 29 games Mitch McGary missed the year prior to that, and the Wolverines have lost a total of 121 games to injuries. With the injuries they've had to deal with this year, Michigan has used seven different starting lineups, but their starters have been the same of the past 12 games.
Cast of characters
The sophomore had a monster performance on Saturday against Rutgers, pulling down a career-high 14 rebounds and tying his career-high with 24 points. Bates-Diop has been helping to carry the offense lately, scoring in double figures in four of the last six games. The work of Bates-Diop on the defensive end shouldn't be overlooked, as he is 11th in the Big Ten with 1.2 blocks per game.
Not to be outdone by Bates-Diop's phenomenal performance on Saturday, Tate set a career-high with 13 rebounds and tied his career-high with 22 points against Rutgers. The double-double Tate posted in the victory was his fourth of the season. The rebounding performance by Tate on Saturday was the first time since the loss to Purdue that he reached double figures in total rebounds.
Derrick Walton Jr.
The junior guard has held the Wolverines together as they have worked through some of their injury issues this year. Last week in the win against Minnesota, Walton Jr. had his best performance of the season, scoring a career-high 26 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out seven assists. Even with missing three games earlier in the season, Walton Jr. is the one of only two Wolverines to grab at least 100 rebounds this year, as he leads the team with 132 boards.
Irvin came up big for Michigan in Saturday's victory against Purdue, hitting four three-pointers on his way to a team-high 22 points. The performance from long range marked the fifth time in conference play this year that Irvin has hit at least three three-pointers in a game. After he missed summer training and a game to start the season following a back procedure over the summer, Irvin has been getting better as the year has gone on.
How to watch
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: WBNS-FM 97.1