First things first: a dramatic come-from-behind victory against our biggest rival in hockey and a road win at the #3 team in the nation to tie up the Big Ten race both deserve this:
First, basketball: Not enough can be said about the spectacular defensive effort today. When you hold a team to fewer made baskets (14) than turnovers (15), you usually win. Jared Sullinger got his (17 points on 15 shots + 8 free throws, 16 rebounds, but 10 turnovers in the process), and Aaron Craft added 15 points (more than half of which came from the free throw line), but they got no help offensively from anyone else; Deshaun Thomas and William Buford each went 2 of 12 from the floor. Interior defense in particular came up big; Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, Brandon Wood, and Austin Thornton each got credit for a steal on Sullinger, and Payne drew at least one charge as well.
Offensively, it was the Adreian Payne show: 15 points (6 for 6 shooting, including a couple of thunderous tip-dunks) in just 20 minutes. Ohio State had no answer for Payne down low. Appling added 14 (but had 7 turnovers and no assists). Draymond Green came up one rebound short of yet another double-double (12 points, 9 boards). Derrick Nix added a couple of nice hook shots (6 points), and Branden Dawson and Brandon Wood helped clean up the glass (8 and 7 rebounds, respectively; 5 of Dawson's on the offensive end). A couple of long droughts in the second half let Ohio State get as close as four, but everybody chipped in a few points to pull away again: Appling, Nix, Payne, and Green each contributed two points to widen the lead back out to 10 with three minutes to go.
Four factors chart:
Rebounding and turnovers were both fairly close; at the risk of being Captain Obvious, FG% was the big difference. Ohio State had not been held below 42% eFG this season; we held them below 30%. Only Kansas had held their efficiency below 0.95 PPP; we held them to 0.75.
With six games to go in conference play, we're tied with the Buckeyes, and Michigan and Wisconsin sit one game back. It's going to be a wild finish.
Hockey weekend recap after the jump.
Michigan came into this weekend on a huge roll, 10-1-2 in their last 13 (although losing the shootouts in both ties). Midway through Friday's game, it looked as though that streak would continue, as A.J. Treais andhad scored second-period goals to stake Michigan to a 2-0 lead. But Torey Krug answered two minutes later to cut the deficit to 2-1 heading into the third.
Special teams was the story of the third period. Michigan's Phil Di Giuseppe got called for boarding just 27 seconds in, and Krug quickly took advantage, burying his second goal of the night to tie the game at 1:26. Two minutes later, Derek DeBlois would get sent to the box for tripping, and MSU cashed in again with a nice pass from Krug to Matt Berry catching Shawn Hunwick out of position and giving the Spartans a lead they would not relinquish. Things got interesting late as MSU had to kill off an elbowing penalty on Brett Perlini, but the PK unit (ranked second nationally at over 89% success after Saturday's game) held firm. This win vaulted the Spartans all the way from 7th to a tie for 3rd in the CCHA.
Saturday began with another goal from Treais putting Michigan ahead 1-0 just after the midpoint of the first period. Greg Wolfe answered for MSU at the 3:32 mark of the second period. Special teams again gave MSU the lead; with Zach Hyman in the box for running over Will Yanakeff after the play, Perlini went top shelf from a sharp angle to put the Spartans ahead 2-1. But Treais's third goal of the weekend put the teams back on level terms two minutes later after a defensive breakdown by MSU.
The remainder of the second period and the first 10 minutes or so of the third were rather uneventful. A flurry of Michigan State chances led to a hooking penalty on Luke Moffatt and another power-play chance with six minutes left, but they could not cash in this time. Michigan had the run of play in the end of regulation, but after MSU had hit the post at least twice earlier in the game, Michigan returned the favor and the game remained tied. Another defensive breakdown proved costly in overtime, however, as Matt Crandell laid out to block a pass but the puck still got through to Kevin Lynch, who went far side for the game-winner, dropping us back to a tie for 5th (at the time of writing, Lake Superior State is trailing at Alaska; if they win or force a shootout, we'll drop to 6th). Top 5 get a bye in the first round of the conference playoffs (5th has to go on the road in the quarterfinals, however).
Special teams have been excellent of late, with the power play going 3 of 8 this weekend and the penalty kill running its successful kill streak up to 20; continuing that into next weekend's series with Alaska would be very helpful, as our series with the Nanooks tend to be very chippy.
On the whole, a split against the team ranked #3 nationally coming in can't really be considered a bad weekend. With the late games still to come, we've moved up from 13th after last weekend to 10th in the Pairwise. Ferris State has pulled away with the conference lead, but beyond that it's anyone's game: if Alaska holds on over Lake State, the gap between "home ice for the quarterfinals" and "on the road in the first round" will be just three points with two weekends to go (and that with the team sitting in 4th - Ohio State - having a bye next week and thus only two games left).