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January 29, 2012Michigan came out flying at Ohio State, scoring the first five points within a minute. The Buckeyes weathered the storm and pulled away in the second half behind Lenzelle Smith Jr.'s 17 points and career-high 12 rebounds, winning 64-49 to break a first place, Big Ten tie with U-M.
Sophomore wing Tim Hardaway Jr. was Michigan's leading scorer, notching 15 points, but freshman point guard and Columbus native Trey Burke was the Wolverines' best player. He scored 13 points (3-for-6 three-point shooting) and notched five assists, though he was also forced into five turnovers.
U-M lost its chance for victory on the defensive glass. The Buckeyes turned 14 offensive rebounds into several second chance points and made 15 free throws to Michigan's three. The Wolverines didn't shoot their first foul shot until less than 2:30 remained.
"The whole day [we struggled]. First of all they are long armed and more athletic, so you can't let them operate in space. You've just got to get a body on somebody and now you have a fighting chance," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "Lenzelle goes in there and takes a couple of our guys and pushes them right underneath, legally, so we learned a lot from that.
"He's a pogo stick, first of all, can jump out of the gym, so that helps, but we did not get to him. That was the important thing. Those eight [offensive] rebounds, those were ones we'll break all down and learn from."
Despite U-M's poor shooting (19-for-53, 35.8 percent), the game wasn't as lopsided as the final score. Michigan was within striking distance for most of the game after trailing 24-21 at the half, but couldn't make the big shot to make it tight.
Ohio State went on a 14-2 run to provide the difference, with Burke hitting a triple preceding it and to end it to keep the Buckeyes from running away with it. Every Michigan point, meanwhile, was hard earned. No other Wolverine besides Burke or Hardaway reached double figures, and senior Zack Novak failed to score.
"They are probably as good a defensive team as there is in the country, especially when they're at home, so they end up getting a great win," Beilein said. "Obviously, we were right there. We had key points where we couldn't make a shot, couldn't get it done. It was just a tough day for some of our guys. At the same time, we'll grow and get better."
OSU extended its home winning streak to 38 games behind Smith, 13 points from big man Jared Sullinger and 12 each from William Buford and Deshaun Smith. The Buckeyes made only three of 14 triples, and Sullinger had to earn his points.
Despite struggling on offense and on the glass, U-M put forth a solid effort on defense. Buford, OSU's leading scorer, didn't score until a minute remained in the first half and finished with only three points in the stanza, in which there were four ties and seven lead changes.
"I liked out defensive game plan as it worked out," Beilein said. "Next time we'll probably change a few things, but we tried to take [Sullinger] away. We've got to do a better job on things we can control."