For the second night in a row, an Ohio State team put forth an impressive performance on national TV.
However, there might not be any couches or dumpsters harmed this time around.
The OSU men’s basketball team soundly defeated Michigan, 71-52, Tuesday night to bounce back from a close loss over the weekend at Indiana.
“We just wanted to send a message,” senior forward Sam Thompson said. “Coming off of this weekend, we wanted to have a good performance, a good bounce back performance on both ends for 40 minutes. For about 36 minutes we did it, so we’re happy with today.”
OSU (14-4, 3-2), which had trailed at the half in three of its first four conference games, appeared to be heading toward another lackluster opening period. However, the Buckeyes turned on the gas midway through the stanza and did not let up.
After Michigan (10-7, 3-2) hit five of its first seven field goal attempts to begin the game, the Buckeyes clamped down defensively, holding the Wolverines to 28.8 percent shooting for the remainder of the matchup. After falling behind, 12-9, early, the Buckeyes used a 15-2 run to open up a double-digit lead.
OSU worked the ball both inside and out in the first half, scoring 18 points in the paint alongside a trio of makes from outside the arc to take a 39-24 lead at the break.
Thompson said the team came in determined from the opening tip to impose its will on its rival.
“No matter what lineup they had on the floor, no matter what lineup we had on the floor, we wanted to show that we were the better team, and we wanted to do it decisively,” he said.
Michigan coach John Beilein said OSU played well in the opening half, but it was more a function of the Wolverines coming out slowly.
“The first half, we just didn’t play well,” Beilein said. “We didn’t play well, and they played very well, and we’re better than that.”
Each of the eight Buckeyes to see the floor in the first half made at least one field goal, led by 10 points from freshman guard D’Angelo Russell and eight from Thompson. Freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate added six points in the half on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting.
Michigan sophomore guard/forward Zak Irvin scored eight points early in the contest to lead the Wolverines, but failed to score over the final 15:48 of the half.
“We knew we wanted to control the game on the defensive end,” Thompson said.
The Buckeyes picked up where they left off in the second half, if not more overwhelming to the Wolverines on both ends.
OSU coach Thad Matta said he stressed to his players to come out of the locker room aggressively and not be satisfied with the halftime margin.
“As we tried to tell our guys at halftime, Michigan has been in this type of situation,” he said. “So we said, ‘Hey, look, by no stretch is this game over with, we can’t let them get comfortable, we can’t let them get on a roll,’ and I thought our guys did a good job with that.”
The Buckeyes obliged to the coach’s pleas, kicking off the half with a 13-0 run, highlighted by a transition alley oop thrown down by Thompson, his third slam of the game.
“I think they’ve been down 10 or 15 points every game for the last four games in the second half, and they’ve come back to send it to overtime or win in three of them, so we knew the game wasn’t over at halftime, we knew they were still very capable of making a run,” Thompson said. “We really wanted to come out and set the tone, send a message, and finish the game strong.”
Michigan went on an 8-0 run after trailing by as much as 28 in the second half, but was unable to get within any sort of real striking distance.
Russell was the Buckeyes’ leading scorer with 21. The Louisville, Ky., native also added four rebounds and six assists.
Russell said he has not been happy with his consistency this season, but continues to push himself to improve, even after a strong performance like Tuesday night.
“I’m in the gym constantly, getting extra reps,” Russell said. “I don’t know what I shot tonight, but I’ll definitely be in the gym tonight, just getting extra reps.”
Thompson and senior center Amir Williams scored in double figures as well, with 12 and 10, respectively.
For the game, OSU held margins of 11-2 in steals, 36-20 in points in the paint and 19-2 in fast break points.
Tate left the game during the first half with an apparent ankle injury after landing on a defender’s foot following a made layup. He was able to limp to the locker room under his own power, and returned to the game in the second half.
Redshirt-senior forward Anthony Lee missed the game with what Matta called a midsection injury suffered during the morning shootaround. Matta said he was considered questionable for the game, but was not needed.
Junior guard Caris LeVert, who came into the game leading Michigan in scoring, rebounding and assists for the season, tallied a team-high 14 points, but managed only two rebounds and one assist.
Matta credited the defensive performance of Thompson in limiting the 2014 All-Big Ten second team selection’s effectiveness.
“I thought Sam did a great job,” Matta said. “LeVert is a tremendous basketball player, and he can get you so many different ways … Sam Thompson did a heck of a job tonight.”
Irvin was second in Michigan scoring with 11 points.
The win snapped OSU’s three-game losing streak to the Wolverines, including a pair of defeats last season.
OSU’s next matchup is set to come Saturday at Iowa. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Iowa City, Iowa.