2011 Ohio State Basketball
Buckeyes Hold Off Rival to Remain Unbeaten
Nobody said being at the top was going to be easy.
The statement is one of many sports clichés that seemingly always holds true, and the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes have become recognize this fact.
The Buckeyes got all they could handle from rival Michigan and battled their way to a 62-53 victory over their foes from up north to remain unbeaten at 23-0.
OSU's workhorse, freshman Jared Sullinger, hammered away inside for 19 points and 15 rebounds while junior William Buford hit some key second half buckets to end up with 13 points as Ohio State (23-0, 10-0 Big Ten) extended their conference lead to three games.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 15 points, Darius Morris 12 and Jordan Morgan 10 for Michigan (13-9, 3-6), which fell to 1-22 all-time against No. 1 ranked opponents.
As Northwestern proved this past Saturday, if you attempt to slow the game down, you give yourself a fighting chance.
The Wolverines executed this game plan admirably in the first half as they controlled the tempo and took 26-23 lead heading into halftime.
Well, the Buckeyes have a game plan themselves and his name is Jared Sullinger.
In the second half, Ohio State continually turned to Sullinger inside to force fouls or muscle his way in for buckets. Ohio State was 15-of-25 at the line to Michigan's 1-of-4. The 14-point differential from the charity stripe proved to be the outcome’s deciding factor.
Trailing 30-24 after a hoop by Michigan’s Jordan Morgan with just over 17 minutes remaining, the Bucks pounded the ball inside to take over.
Case in point, the first seven fouls of the second half were called against Michigan leading to the Buckeyes being in the bonus with 14:20 to go.
OSU then went on an 8-0 run which featured a triple by Buford, baskets by Sullinger and fellow freshman Aaron Craft, and a free-throw by senior David Lighty which allowed Ohio State to break free from a tie at 36. Once they took control of the game, the Buckeyes never looked back.
Craft hit a reverse layup in traffic that brought the sold out, Value City Arena crowd to their feet with 4:25 left. Moments later, Sullinger powered his way in for a bank shot for a 54-45 advantage.
The Bucks began to step up the defensive pressure as Michigan had trouble getting good looks and missed shots when they had open opportunities. It was clear towards the end of the game that OSU had just wore the Wolverines down as they finished off the victory.
With the victory, OSU extended several streaks. First, they have their second 23-0 start in the program's 112 years, exceeded only by the 27-0 run by the Jerry Lucas-led team of 1960-61. In addition, they won their 14th straight Big Ten game while moving to 64-4 all-time when ranked No. 1. Furthermore, they're 10-0 in the conference for the first time since 1961-62.
Ohio State hopes to keep these streaks alive as they face perhaps their toughest test of the season traveling to Minnesota to square off against the No. 20 ranked Golden Gophers on Saturday.
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