2012 Ohio State Basketball
Buckeyes Beat Rivals, Remain Atop Conference Standings
Let's face it, anytime Ohio State and Michigan get together to compete; whether it's football, hockey, baseball or chess, you can expect a highly competitive affair.
Throw in the fact that both teams are battling for first place atop the Big Ten conference, and you have yourself an entertaining afternoon.
The bitter rivals met in Columbus with the fourth ranked Buckeyes defeating the 20th ranked Wolverines 64-49 on Sunday, keeping the Buckeyes in a first-place tie in the Big Ten.
Smith Jr.'s performance was reminiscent of a game earlier this month where he helped the Buckeyes defeat another conference foe by pouring in a career-high 28 points in a 80-63 victory against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta praised his unlikely hero following the game.
"Quite honestly, with this team we sort of need a jack-of-all-trades," Matta said. "There's so many times where a team is going to choose to guard us a certain way or scheme a certain defense. He is really understanding his role. The energy-type plays that he made today was definitely something that gave us a spurt and a boost of energy."
On an afternoon when Ohio State stud Jared Sullinger was limited by foul trouble and the rest of the Buckeyes weren't exactly hitting their shots, Smith's relentlessness on the boards and on defense carried the Buckeyes (19-3, 7-2).
How much did Smith's performance carry OSU? His eight offensive rebounds were just two less than all the Wolverines (16-6, 6-3). Those offensive boards resulted in 13 points and five free throws, swaying the momentum of the game on multiple occasions.
"That's big-game `L' for you," Sullinger said of Smith's huge games against Indiana and now Michigan. "When Lenzelle's rebounding the ball and he's in tune with the defense, he's pretty darned good."
Sullinger added 13 points for the Buckeyes while William Buford and Deshaun Thomas contributed 12 points.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 15 points for the Wolverines. Trey Burke, the conference's top freshman point guard, returned to his hometown to play for the first time against Sullinger, his former high school teammate, and finished with the same amount as his former classmate, 13 points.
Ohio State point guard, and Burke's counterpart Aaron Craft, praised the youngster during the postgame presser.
"Trey's a great player," said Craft, who had seven points, four assists and three steals. "He's one of those guys you want to have on your team. You know he's going to be in attack mode all the whole game. It was definitely a great team effort on him."
Leading by three points at halftime, the Buckeyes pulled away with a 14-2 run midway through the second half.
Buford, who had a quiet first half, started to get things going with a driving layup. Then, he stepped in front of Burke's crosscourt pass and streaked the length of the court for a dunk that ignited the capacity crowd.
But it was Smith's game. The crafty lefty scored twice during the run with a layup on an assist from Buford and a short jumper from the baseline.
Leading 48-35, the Buckeyes saw their lead trimmed down to 50-43 on an inside basket by Jordan Morgan. Morgan then stole the ball from Sullinger and grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed triple. Just as Morgan was bracing to go up for the follow, Craft knifed in and stole the ball.
Craft then found Thomas for a bucket at the other end and the lead never fell below eight points again.
With the victory, the Buckeyes ran their winning streak over its archrival to six straight.
The Buckeyes will hope to stay atop the Big Ten standings as they travel to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers next weekend.
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