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January 17, 2009

Growing up on the road

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Any road win in the Big Ten is a satisfying win for any team but Saturday night's win for the Buckeyes over Michigan was extra special as Ohio State was tested and pushed to the brink before putting up a seven-plus minute 17-3 run to erase a four point deficit and push on to a 65-58 win over the Wolverines (13-5, 3-3) to push Ohio State to 13-3 (3-2) on the season.

Evan Turner led Ohio State with 19 points while the freshman tandem of B.J. Mullens and William Buford chipped in 15 a piece. Michigan was led by Manny Harris who threw up 21 points for the Maize and Blue.

The weather conditions outside were reminiscent of the famous Snow Bowl of football fame but it was toasty in Crisler Arena for the small pocket of Ohio State fans that made the treacherous trek to Ann Arbor to see a big win and step of maturation for this young Buckeye team.

"We wanted to get a good road win and get our swagger back and just play well," Turner said. "I am glad we got this good road win with this good team effort and we played and fought hard."

Things got off on the right foot (or snowshoe as the case may be) for the Buckeyes in opening up a 7-0 lead that was capped off by a three pointer but Buford. While things were going well for Ohio State the Wolverines were ice cold turning the ball over twice and with Zack Novak missing a three pointer. The Buckeyes would maintain their lead for the entire half and took it up to seven again when Mullens was on the receiving end of a Turner lob in for the Alley-Oop.

The Buckeyes flirted with opening it up by a substantial margin when Kyle Madsen got his lone first half points in the paint. Both teams would struggle to move the score off of 23-14 with more than 3:30 running off the clock before the scoring resumed with a Kelvin Grady bucket to cut into
the Ohio State lead.

Turner would strike for Ohio State and open it up to 11 points with a baseline jumper that was followed up by another Turner bucket off the assist from Jeremie Simmons at 27-16. The Buckeyes would end up on the wrong side of several calls for the last 3:30 of the half as the Wolverines would go on a 9-2 run to cut the score to 29-25 as the teams took the halftime locker room.

Ohio State would stretch the lead to seven in the second half but then would watch the Wolverines cut into the lead and at the 14:42 mark of the second half the Wolverines drew even for the first time since 0-0 and then a minute later Michigan would take a two point lead on a DeShawn Sims bucket. But the Wolverines never were really able to put together any sort of run during the next five minutes until Stu Douglass drained one of his four triples to expand to lead to two possessions and four points.

"We were just going to keep on playing until the fat lady sings (laugh)," Buford said. "Just keep playing hard."

The Buckeyes were sloppy with the ball and the 15 turnovers in the game and even though Michigan was only able to muster four points off of those turnovers it did cause the Buckeyes to have empty possessions and that kept the Buckeyes from putting together any early runs.

"We knew if we didn't make any errors that they would have a difficult time scoring, which they did," Turner said. "We knew we just had to lock down and just lock them up in order to win the game and that is what we did."

After the eight minute media timeout things turned for the Buckeyes and the young Ohio State team started to grow up in hostile territory. During Ohio State's 17-3 run Mullens hit seven points while Buford and Turner each put up five. By the time that the run was over there was 1:08 left on the clock and despite some late three pointers by Michigan the Buckeyes would hit free throws to seal the deal.

Did the Buckeyes take a large step during this game?

"I thought that we showed a little bit more," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "I don't think honestly a couple of weeks ago we could have done some of the things that we did there and I think guys are growing up a little bit."

Mullens had 15 of Ohio State's 17 points off the bench and the future NBA player is very happy with his role and how he can contribute for the team.

"It is momentum," Mullens said. "To come in a place like this in a big rivalry game and me coming in off of the bench brings really good energy to my team and that's my role on this team, to bring energy."

Saturday night also showed the most extensive minutes of both Mullens and Dallas Lauderdale on the floor at the same time. Why was tonight the right night for that look?

"We have practiced it all the time but it is just that we had to use it at the right opportunity," Mullens said. "Tonight was (the right time) because they are small down low and us going with Evan at the three and Dallas any myself and the four and five is a mismatch all over the floor."

The coaching staff was pleased with the win and with the effort that the team showed.

"We beat a tremendous basketball team tonight and they made their run on us and we were able to counter it," Matta said. "We told our guys that they were going to make a run on us and we had to keep our composure (our guys) did a good job of staying together and we knew on the defensive end we were going to have to get the stops and it felt like down the stretch offensively we made some good reads and guys finished well."

But there is no time for any sort of back slapping with the Buckeyes back on the road Tuesday night taking on the Fighting Illini in their building.

Game Leaders

Scoring
Ohio State: Turner 19, Buford 15, Mullens 15, Simmons 7
Michigan: Harris 21, Douglass 12, Sims 10, Two tied at 5

Rebounding
Ohio State: Turner 8, Mullens 6, Buford 5
Michigan: Harris 7, Sims 6, Team 6

Assists
Ohio State: Turner 6, Simmons 4, Diebler 3
Michigan: Harris 6, Grady 3, Lee 2

Blocks
Ohio State: Mullens 3, Lauderdale 1
Michigan: Sims 1


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