By Drew Hansen | @UnorthodoxDrew
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — They were shorthanded. They lacked experience. They were outrebounded. They hit less than a quarter of their three-point attempts. They were called for twice as many fouls as their opponent. On paper, the Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t look like they could slow down the barreling freight train that was Michigan.
That’s the thing about basketball, though: it’s played on the hardwood, not paper.
With two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup, the Buckeyes beat Michigan, 66-60, on their way to their 10th trip to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
The sixth-seeded Buckeyes (21-11) will meet No. 1 Maryland on Sunday night.
Each of the five starters scored in double figures. Freshman guard Madison Greene scored 13 points with five rebounds. Sophomore forward Aaliyah Patty and freshman guard Jacy Sheldon scored 11 points. Junior guard Braxtin Miller and sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz scored 10 points.
Ohio State had 17 points as the result of fast breaks and held Michigan (21-11) without a fast-break basket. The Buckeyes outscored Michigan in points off turnovers (15-3), points in the paint (40-32) and bench points (11-4).
Ohio State led by as many as 12 points midway through the third quarter. Michigan sophomore guard Danielle Rauch tied the score at 47-47 with a jumper, the last of four ties. Ohio State led for 30:15.
“Throughout the season we’ve grown and matured to who we are right now and I feel like it’s showing,” Greene said. “I’m just excited to be in the championship tomorrow and see what we can do.”
After playing three games in as many days, the Ohio State players had to manage their inevitable fatigue.
“It’s very tough, especially when we’re down numbers,” said sophomore guard Janai Crooms. “I think we only have like eight players, so a couple players had to play a little bit more time. So, I think that is like really a downfall for us. But I think what helps us is our depth. I think we all contribute in some type of way.”
The semifinal victory marked the sixth time this season that five Ohio State players scored in double figures.
Michigan sophomore forward Naz Hillmon scored 22 points on 10-for-21 shooting, her third consecutive game of 20 or more points.
“We certainly had to pay attention to Naz Hillmon,” said Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff. “She was outstanding tonight and she’s so hard to guard. So, a lot of our conversations were trying to keep the ball out of her hands, which is very difficult to do, and then keeping her off the glass.”