COLUMBUS — Ohio State isn’t a finished product, but the Buckeyes appear ready for whatever March throws in their direction.
After passing their latest test, a 77-63 grind-it-out win over Michigan inside a sold-out Schottenstein Center, the Buckeyes have won eight of their last 10. They’re elevating their level of play on the defensive end and finding new ways to score offensively every game.
Following a January slate that tripped the Buckeyes up far more than they would’ve liked, Ohio State found a way back onto the right course in February and carried it into the first challenge of March. It wasn’t an easy home win, but with each shot knocked down to extend the lead over Michigan, the Buckeyes gained confidence that’ll be needed in the coming weeks.
Ohio State is finding it at the right time. And now it seems that the Buckeyes are ready for whoever they might meet in the next few weeks. Lettermen Row is breaking down the huge win over Michigan with Three Points:
Duane Washington can be Ohio State difference-maker
When the Buckeyes get the version of Duane Washington they got Sunday afternoon, their chances of making a run later this month increase. Washington was disciplined with his defense — most notably in the first half on a tough possession against Michigan forward Isaiah Livers — and played hard on that end. But he also paced the Ohio State scoring with 20 points to go along with six rebounds in what may be his best game of the season. Ohio State is going to need that from Washington in the next week to close out the regular season with some momentum. And if the Buckeyes can get that production from Washington through the month of March, they’ll be tough to beat on any neutral floor.
Backcourt rounding into March form
While Washington was making critical shots and carrying the load for the Buckeyes offensively C.J. Walker handled the moment of a huge conference game well and played an all-around good game. Walker finished with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists, all while defending Wolverines point guard Zavier Simpson, one of the leagues most crafty guards. Of course, the front court is still playing well. Kaleb Wesson hasn’t changed, and his 14 points were huge. But Walker, Washington and Luther Muhammad have been forced to step into even larger roles over the last month without freshman guard D.J. Carton, and the trio has done well. All three scored in double figures Sunday. Ohio State has won eight of its last 10 games, and the guard play has been elevated during that stretch. It’ll need to keep that form heading into the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
Buckeyes grind out tough game without Kyle Young
Kyle Young has provided toughness on the floor for the Buckeyes all season — and throughout his career. But Young sprained his ankle against Maryland last Sunday and hasn’t played since. Maybe his toughness wasn’t missed at Nebraska when Ohio State coasted to an easy win. And his absence could’ve effected how the Buckeyes handled this late-season test against Michigan. Especially considering his role in the controversy at the end of the first meeting between these bitter rivals on Feb. 4. But they were able to take the punches the Wolverines threw and scrap their way to a win without one of their key role players. When he comes back from his ankle issue, the Buckeyes will be a better team. But they were able to claw their way to a huge home win Sunday without him.