Ohio St.-Michigan Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- The memory of another frustrating loss to rival Ohio State last month remains vivid in the collective minds of the Michigan basketball team.
With that defeat as motivation, the No. 17 Wolverines try to avoid a seventh consecutive loss to the sixth-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday night in a Big Ten matchup at Crisler Arena.
Michigan (19-7, 9-4) trailed by three at halftime at Ohio State on Jan. 29, but the Buckeyes used a 14-2 run midway through the second half to win 64-49. By the end of the game, Buckeye fans added insult to the result by singing "We Don't Give A Damn For the Whole State of Michigan."
"It goes both ways, but we'll be looking forward to (the next meeting)," Michigan coach John Beilein said after the game.
The rematch is here, in a prime-time setting and on a court where the Wolverines have won 15 straight dating to last season.
"(Ohio State is a) really good basketball team, but we've worked hard and we feel good about the direction we've gone this week to get ready," Beilein told Michigan's official website. "It certainly is advantageous to get a win."
Michigan is one game behind Big Ten co-leaders Ohio State (22-4, 10-3) and Michigan State, but has lost 15 of 17 against the Buckeyes. Though Ohio State's only two losses during that stretch have come over the last four games in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes have held the Wolverines to an average of 58.3 points on 41.7 percent shooting during the six-game overall winning streak in the series that dates to a 73-64 loss at Crisler on Jan. 3, 2010.
The Wolverines shot 35.8 percent at Ohio State last month.
"Their defense was really suffocating at times," said Beilein, whose team has won two in a row and three of four since that defeat.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 15 points and star freshman Trey Burke added 14 as the Wolverines went 23 of 46 from the field in Sunday's 70-61 home victory over Illinois.
Hardaway has scored 15 points in each of the last three meetings with Ohio State while Burke (14.0 points, 4.8 assists per game) added 13 but also had five turnovers against the Buckeyes last month. Despite Burke's troubles handling the ball in his hometown of Columbus, Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft knows he'll likely be in for a handful against the talented point guard this time.
"Trey's a great player," said Craft, who had seven points and four assists versus Michigan last month. "You know he's going to be in attack mode all the whole game."
Ohio State sophomore and Burke's former high school teammate Jared Sullinger managed 13 points while dealing with foul trouble against the Wolverines in January, but fellow sophomore Lenzelle Smith Jr. helped pick up the slack with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Sullinger has averaged 20.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in four games since that contest. He had 23 points and eight boards Tuesday as the Buckeyes won 78-68 at Minnesota, bouncing back from a 58-48 home loss to seventh-ranked Michigan State three days prior.
William Buford, held to four points on 2-of-12 shooting against the Spartans, finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists at Minnesota.
"We just need to get that element of toughness back and keep playing hard," Sullinger said. "Five guys together. When you do that, you're pretty hard to beat."
Ohio State snapped a four-game road skid against Top 25 opponents with a 58-52 victory at then-No. 19 Wisconsin on Feb. 4.
Updated February 17, 2012