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Michigan unbeaten no more as Buckeyes prevail
Smith was fouled again on the inbounds pass and converted both foul shots with 12.7 seconds left.
Burke closed the scoring with a banked-in 3 from in front of the Michigan bench.
The Buckeyes played perhaps their best of the season in the opening 15 minutes.
After Burke hit a 3 on Michigan’s first trip down the court, the Wolverines went 7:18 without a point. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were getting to the basket, hitting open perimeter shots, scoring in transition and holding their own under the basket.
Thomas got it going for Ohio State with a shot from the left wing that ignited scoring on seven consecutive possessions. Center Amir Williams followed a miss for a 4-3 lead before Craft — who had been in a shooting slump most of the year — popped in a 3. Then Smith blocked a shot by Hardaway and then hit a layup at the other end. Craft then scored on back-to-back drives. Thomas ended the spurt the way he started it, with a shot from the wing, this one a 3, for a 16-3 lead to cap the 16-0 run.
Michigan looked disorganized on offense and had difficulty making any stops on defense.
The Wolverines finally got a surge late in the half, thanks to Albrecht — who exceeded his career high by a point by scoring seven in the opening half.
He made all four free throw attempts after getting fouled on drives, then hit a 3 during a 14-5 run to close the half.
Ohio State had battled some nagging problems all season. The Buckeyes have struggled to find an offensive and defensive presence in the post after two-time All-American Jared Sullinger departed after last season for the NBA. They have also shot poorly in their biggest games, failing to hit 34 percent of their shots from the field in the losses to Duke, Kansas and Illinois.
The Buckeyes have been at their best against their worst opponents, and vice versa. They came into the game 12-0 vs. unranked teams and 0-3 against those in the Top 25. Their losses included defeats at Duke (ranked No. 1 before losing its first game on Saturday), at home against No. 6 Kansas and a lopsided defeat at No. 12 Illinois on Jan. 5.
The capacity crowd was loud and boisterous from the beginning. Students had camped out for a couple of days on the concrete just outside the side door of Value City Arena. There was a large banner above the tents that read, “Matta-ritaville,” in honor of coach Thad Matta and echoing Duke’s “Krzyzewskiville.”
Matta improved to 17-3 against Michigan.
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