January 12, 2013

Three-point play: Michigan

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With all due respect to Kansas, there may not be a hotter basketball ticket in town this season than the ones that were made for Ohio State's matchup with Michigan this Sunday. On Friday, Thad Matta members of the 15th-ranked Buckeyes met with the media to preview their upcoming rivalry game with the Wolverines.

Meeting Michigan

Michigan comes to Columbus as just one of three undefeated teams remaining in the country, which has helped earn them the nation's No. 2 ranking. Ohio State guard Aaron Craft said that what makes the Wolverines so effective this year is their ability to find offense from a multitude of players.

"They're a great basketball team. It'd be great if you could just focus on one or two guys, but I think they have four or five guys that can beat you, and they put them all on the floor at the same time," Craft said. "It's a big team game, it's big team defensive game for us to try to limit their go-to's and things like that. Obviously they're playing with a lot of confidence."

Matta admitted that he's been impressed by the recent play of Michigan, who he has beaten 16 times in 19 attempts as Ohio State's head coach.

"Right now, they're playing tremendous basketball," Matta said. "Sitting at 16-0, they've got a great rhythm to what they're doing and how they're doing it. You've got a couple of just great players that are really scoring the basketball."

Battling Burke

One of the big reason's for Michigan's rise this season has been the stellar play of sophomore point guard and Columbus native Trey Burke. The Wolverines' National Player of the Year candidate is averaging 18.2 points and 7.3 points per game after turning down the opportunity to enter last year's NBA Draft.

"He- we term it- 'probes' the defense exceptionally well. He's probably a much better athlete than people would give him credit for. So he's very, very quick with the basketball," Matta said. "He gets from point A to point B, and you couple that with he can change directions quickly, and that's what I think makes it a challenge."

Having battled against Burke in AAU scrimmages through high school, Craft said he's noticed a drastic difference in the Northland high school product's play.

"He's a great player. He took this spring and summer and definitely improved his games. He wasn't complacent and you can definitely see that as he's played this year," Craft said. "He's trusting his teammates a little more, and that's just made him a better all-around player."

Bouncing back

Despite coming off of their first road win of the season at Purdue, the Buckeyes have endured their share of speed bumps this season and still lack a win over a nationally ranked opponent this season. Despite what handing the Wolverines their first loss of the season could mean for the Buckeyes' resume, Matta also said that there will be plenty other opportunities to pick up a signature win in a tougher than usual Big Ten conference.

"It's never as good as it seems, it's never as bad as it seems," Matta said. "With the Big Ten where it is, there's going to be ups and downs."

But despite suffering a loss at Illinois just a week ago, Craft feels that his team is trending in the right direction, and that the Buckeyes did things against the Boilermakers that they had not previously proven that they were capable of.

"As a team, the game as a whole kind of showed us that we can deal with adversity and I don't think we had done a great job up to that point this season," Craft said. "A team going on a run, we didn't really fight back, and made it a lot closer than we would have liked it to and I think every time they made a run at us, someone came down and made a big shot or a big play for us."


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