Cody Cousino / Photo editor
iNDIANAPOLIS — The Ohio State and Michigan men’s basketball teams split their two regular season meetings, but the rubber match of the season series arrives Saturday in the form of a Big Ten Tournament semifinal game.
No. 3-seed OSU (26-6, 13-5 Big Ten) will meet No. 2-seed and co-Big Ten regular season champion Michigan (24-8, 13-5 Big Ten) Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a trip to the Big Ten championship game on the line.
OSU pulled away in the second half of its quarterfinal game against No. 6-seed Purdue, winning 88-71. Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger scored a season-high 30 points, adding 12 rebounds, three blocks and two assists.
After the game, Sullinger said he was the driving force behind the Buckeyes’ offense.
“Honestly, I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but we played through me,” Sullinger said. “Our guards, and even (sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas) found a way to find me in the post.”
Michigan freshman guard Trey Burke and sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr., combined for a dominant performance of their own to help the Wolverines advance.
Michigan trailed for long stretches of its quarterfinal game against No. 10-seed Minnesota, but eventually won in overtime, 73-69. The Wolverines’ underclassmen guard duo combined for 50 points, with Burke scoring 30 points and Hardaway Jr., scoring 20, respectively.
Donning an OSU basketball track suit, Buckeyes assistant coach Jeff Boals sat on press row during the Michigan-Minnesota game and scouted the two teams. Boals told The Lantern that Michigan runs its offensive system very well.
“When you’ve got Tim Hardaway Jr., and Trey Burke out there … it’s like a two-headed monster,” Boals said. “And then you’ve got complimentary guys who knock down a (3-pointer).”
Sullinger also watched a portion of the game between the Wolverines and Golden Gophers. Sullinger, a former teammate of Burke’s at Northland High School in Columbus, Ohio, agreed with Boals, adding he thought Burke played a great game against Minnesota.
“It’s a perfect (offensive) system for (Burke) and he fits perfectly,” Sullinger said.
OSU won the teams’ first meeting during the 2011-12 season on Jan. 29, 64-49. Michigan then rebounded on its home floor, taking a 56-51 win on Feb. 18.
The third meeting between the teams will likely be their last until next season. Boals said he is looking forward to seeing the third installment of the season series play out Saturday.
“Anytime Michigan and Ohio State play, it’s always going to be a high-energy, big atmosphere,” Boals said. “It will be interesting on a neutral court. We’ll see how both of us bounce back.”
OSU’s semifinal game against No. 2-seed Michigan will begin 25 minutes after the conclusion of No. 1-seed Michigan State versus No. 4-seed Wisconsin, which tips at 1:40 p.m.