Despite a six-point loss, the Ohio State Buckeyes played far better than expected against a ranked Maryland team in Columbus Tuesday. Junior forward Jae’Sean Tate and senior forward Marc Loving both tallied impressive performances versus the Terps, and junior center Trevor Thompson rebounded from his horrendous showing against Iowa with a nine-point effort. It was heart-wrenching in many ways as the Buckeyes were able to come back within one point in the second half after a halftime deficit.
“That was a gut-check win for us,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon. “I thought Ohio State was terrific. They were hard for us to guard, shot 48 percent against us.”
Of course, the Buckeyes’ inconsistency has been the one consistent theme throughout the season, as brilliant performances against the likes of Maryland and UConn are tempered with horrendous losses to Florida Atlantic and Iowa.
With the loss to Maryland, Ohio State has lost three of its last four games. It was a better performance against Maryland, certainly, but in the words of Thad Matta, “we played better, but we didn’t play good enough.”
Now, the Buckeyes head to Michigan for their single matchup this season against the Wolverines. Ohio State leads the all-time series versus Michigan 95-76, with Matta’s coaching record at 19-7. The Buckeyes, however, haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 2011, and have dropped four of their last six to Michigan.
The Wolverines are sitting at 14-8 on the season and are 4-5 in the Big Ten behind longtime coach John Bellein. Most recently, Michigan lost to in-state rival Michigan State by eight points in East Lansing.
Ann Arbor has been a tough environment for Ohio State basketball in recent years, and this year will likely be no different. Still, the Buckeyes have shown that they are capable of playing at a level to beat Michigan on the road — it all depends on which team shows up on the court.
Numbers to know
Michigan has proven to be one of the best shooting teams in the conference, hitting over 47 percent from field goal range. The Wolverines are also hitting 38.2 percent from behind the arc — something that the Buckeyes have struggled to defend this season, allowing over 34 percent shooting from three-point range. On the flip side, Michigan is worst in the Big Ten in defending both field goals and three-pointers, allowing 47.3 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from behind the arc. The Buckeyes will need to defend Michigan’s balanced offense, which boasts four players averaging double-digit scoring this season.
Unlike the Buckeyes, Michigan has proven to be extremely consistent from the free — throw line this season, hitting nearly 80 percent of their shots from the charity stripe — the best average in the Big Ten. In fact, all of Michigan’s starting five shoot greater than 70 percent on free throw attempts. In fact, senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. has been shooting 90 percent from the line. Free throws have been a struggle the entire season for the Buckeyes, who cannot afford to create a gap against a far better free throw shooting team in Michigan. Ohio State will need to stay out of foul trouble — especially Thompson — to keep Michigan off the line.
The Buckeyes have not fared well on the road this season, especially in conference play, with losses to Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. And these games, for the most part, have not been close, with Ohio State losing by an average of 12.75 points on the road in conference play. In fact, including the gutsy, last-second win versus Nebraska, the Buckeyes have been outscored 393-343 over five games. Tonight, they face a tough road environment in Ann Arbor, but things don’t get much easier from there, as Ohio State still has a tough road schedule remaining for the rest of the season, including matchups at Maryland, Michigan State and Penn State.
Cast of characters
The senior forward had an impressive effort against Maryland Tuesday, going 4-for-5 from three-point range on his way to an 18-point performance in the Buckeyes’ loss. Tonight’s matchup marks Loving’s fifth game against Michigan over his career, a series in which he has averaged five points per game and just under five rebounds. On the season, Loving has averaged 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for Ohio State. He will need to bring that scoring effort against a team that is one of the best in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 65.8 points per game.
The Buckeyes as a team may not have played with much heart throughout the season, but Tate has been a rare bright spot in terms of his on-court effort. Against Maryland, Tate recorded a team-high 20 points to go along with four assists, four rebounds and two steals. He leads the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game, and is second in rebounding with 6.2 per game. He also brings energy to a defense that has often proved lacking, leading the team in steals with 23 on the year. Tate will need to be the Buckeyes’ spark plug once again on both sides of the ball against Michigan to both drive the lane to score and to defend an excellent shooting team.
The 6-foot-6 guard leads the Wolverines in scoring with 13.7 points per game and has averaged 3.4 assists per game. However, the senior is coming off his first scoreless game of the season, having shot 0-for-8 from the field, a game in which Irvin was recovering from the flu. Irvin, a captain, has been the emotional leader of the Wolverines squad for several seasons, and has enabled his team to play with the emotion and heart that the Buckeyes have so been lacking this year. Ohio State will need to contain Irvin both in his scoring and in his ability to rally his team.
The sophomore forward from Berlin is third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.9 points per game, but has the third-best shooting percentage in the Big Ten, hitting 60 percent of his shots from field goal range. The 6-foot-11 forward plays as center in Michigan’s lineup, which does not feature a true center. The big man is also a strong shooter from three-point range, hitting over 44 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Ohio State will need to effectively defend Wagner on the perimeter, knowing that any of Michigan’s shooters can effectively hit shots from both in the lane and from range.
How to watch
Game time: 6 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM