Saturday, March 09, 2002

Ohio State reaches Big Ten semis

Buckeyes beat Michigan 75-68

The Associated Press

        INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State wanted to change its focus. Instead of worrying about the upcoming NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes were determined to go far in the Big Ten tourney first.

        Reserve Terence Dials' 14 points led five players in double figures Friday night, and No.21 Ohio State held off Michigan 75-68 for its first victory in the conference tournament since 1999. The Buckeyes play Illinois in today's semifinals.

        “This year, we put our emphasis on staying around here for a couple days,” senior guard Brian Brown said.

        The Buckeyes (21-7) altered their look — all the players shaved their heads — and then went out and played like a team. They had balanced scoring, solid defense and toughness that allowed them to stave off Michigan's charge in the final minutes.

        “We didn't want to come in here and shave our heads and then lose and have people asking why we shaved our heads,” Brown said.

        Instead, the Buckeyes advanced to the Big Ten semifinals for the second time. And they did it by improving to 3-0 this season against Michigan, including a win on the road last weekend to earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.

        Brown had a poor shooting night, finishing 4-for-14 from the field for 11 points, five under his average. But he scored when Ohio State really needed him to, making two baskets in the final 2:42 to raise the Buckeyes' conference tourney mark to 2-4 overall.

        “Brian became tentative because he wasn't making his shots,” Buckeyes coach Jim O'Brien said. “He was not being aggressive.”

        Brown's teammates picked up the slack.

        Brent Darby and Boban Savovic got Ohio State started early, while Dials provided a strong inside presence, as did Velimir Radinovic and Zach Williams. Williams finished with 11 points, Darby and Savovic 10 each. Only Radinovic, with eight points, failed to reach double figures.

        “I thought we played very, very well offensively, we just couldn't pull away,” O'Brien said. “Michigan deserves some credit for hanging in there, but we just made some big plays at the end.”

        It didn't look like Ohio State would need much help from the Wolverines after it took a 15-2 lead in the first seven minutes.

        Michigan (11-18), though, battled back with a 7-0 run and closed the half with four straight points to get within 42-35.

        LaVell Blanchard led Michigan with 24 points, while Chris Young and Bernard Robinson Jr. each added 10.

        “I do feel our kids really laid it on the line,” said Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, whose team lost for the eighth time in 10 games. “To me that's a great start.”

        The Wolverines continued to close early in the second half, getting within 44-40 at the 18:16 mark.

        From that point, Ohio State maintained the lead but could not pull away. Michigan got within 64-63 when Young hit a 5-footer with 5 1/2 minutes left and even had a chance to take the lead on its next possession, but Blanchard's 7-footer was short.

        The Buckeyes responded with two Radinovic baskets and then a 17-footer from Brown that made it 70-66 with 2:42 left. After Blanchard cut the lead to 70-68, Brown put in a 5-foot bank shot that sealed the game.

        “Brown's basket was extremely critical,” O'Brien said. “I sensed he was hesitating on the offensive opportunities he may have had. Through all that, he made the basket that basically wins the game.”

        MICHIGAN (11-18) — Robinson 3-14 4-6 10, Blanchard 7-14 9-10 24, Young 4-5 2-2 10, Jones 1-3 2-2 4, Ingerson 2-6 0-0 5, Gibson 0-0 0-0 0, Gotfredson 2-4 0-0 5, Groninger 2-5 0-0 6, Bailey 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 23-57 17-20 68.

        OHIO ST. (21-7) — Savovic 3-10 2-3 10, Williams 3-7 5-7 11, Radinovic 3-3 2-2 8, Darby 4-7 0-0 10, Brown 4-14 3-4 11, Fuss-Cheatham 0-0 0-0 0, Connolly 3-4 1-2 9, Dials 5-7 4-4 14, Dudley 0-1 0-0 0, Martin 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-54 17-22 75.

        Halftime—Ohio St. 42-35. 3-Point Goals—Michigan 5-17 (Groninger 2-5, Blanchard 1-2, Gotfredson 1-3, Ingerson 1-5, Jones 0-2), Ohio St. 6-13 (Connolly 2-2, Darby 2-4, Savovic 2-6, Brown 0-1). Fouled out—Jones. Rebounds—Michigan 32 (Blanchard 7), Ohio St. 34 (Brown 6). Assists—Michigan 12 (Robinson 4), Ohio St. 19 (Connolly 5). Total fouls—Michigan 18, Ohio St. 19. A—NA.


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