COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Buckeyes overcame a sloppy first half against archrival Michigan as Jared Sullinger pounded away down low and ended up with 19 points and 15 rebounds as the Buckeyes (23-0, 10-0) used a 12-2 run in the second half to put some distance between them and the Wolverines (13-10, 3-7) to extend their perfect record with a 62-53 win.
"Honestly, I give Michigan a lot of credit," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said after the game. "We were not as sharp as we needed to be in the first half. We gave up turnovers that led to easy baskets. It's unacceptable."
Ohio State turned the ball over ten times in the first 20 minutes of the game and those giveaways led to ten Michigan points. The Buckeyes also were ice cold from the field shooting 36-percent on only nine made field goals en route to a dismal 23 point output. The Wolverines were not able to take full advantage however as they were ice cold from beyond the arc with 2-9 from beyond the arc in the first half which was a far cry from the 11-24 shooting when the two teams met in Ann Arbor (Mich.).
But the Wolverines were able to take a three point lead to the halftime locker room and when you are a 16 point underdog you only ask for a chance to pull off the big road upset against the nation's top ranked team.
"I told them we can win the game," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "You're up in the game and you can play with these guys."
Ohio State came out more focused in the second half and opened an eight point lead by the 9:37 mark of the second half. Ohio State had success in drawing fouls on the Wolverines and went to the bonus at the 14:19 mark and the double bonus at the 6:46 mark.
But it was Buford who gave the Buckeyes the initial spark hitting a pair of three-pointers to put a charge in a crowd that had been just about as lethargic as the team that they were there to cheer on.
"Every shot I shoot I expect it to go in," Buford said. "It just went down in the second half."
The Buckeyes could have actually put more distance between the two teams but Sullinger had an off night from the charity stripe and ended up going for less than 50-percent (5-11).
Matta and the staff will have plenty of tape to go through as the team prepares to jump back on the road and take on Minnesota for a second time this year. First time around the Buckeyes took a close win against the Gophers with a 67-64 final decision. Close games have been the norm since then however for Matta's team and he knows that the team will have to start off better than they did on Thursday to go into a hostile building as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
"A couple of those turnovers were very uncharacteristic of us," Matta said.
But he is also quick to give praise where it is needed for his team.
"Our guys did a very good job of maintaining composure when things didn't go the way we wanted them to go," Matta added.
With games in Minneapolis, Madison (Wis.), West Lafayette (Ind.) and State College (Pa.) all still looming the Buckeyes will have to keep their eye on the ball with such a thin margin from here until the Big Ten Tournament.