How Ohio State Shut Down the Michigan Offense

Coming into Sunday’s matchup against Ohio State, the Michigan Wolverines had the number one rated offense according to the Pomeroy ratings.  John Beilein’s team had scored more than one point per possession in every game they had played, with their lowest scoring rate coming in the previous game against Nebraska, when the Wolverines had dropped 1.09 points per trip on the Cornhuskers.  Against Ohio State, it all came to a screeching halt, as the Wolverines only managed 0.87 points per possession against Thad Matta’s defense.

The Michigan offense has been great for several reasons.  First, the Wolverines can really shoot, with an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent, which ranks second nationally.  Second, they seldom give up the ball, with a turnover coming in under 15 percent of their possessions, a turnover rate that also ranks No. 2 in Division I.  The Wolverines also do well on the offensive boards, with a 36 percent offensive rebounding percentage.

Against Ohio State, none of these strengths were on display.  John Beilein’s squad had a 45 percent effective field goal percentage, a 21 percent turnover percentage, and only got to 12 percent of the possible offensive rebounds.  The Michigan offense was simply stuck in the mud.

One of the things that the Michigan offense has done well this season is get to the rim and finish there.  35 percent of the Wolverine attempts have come at the rim, and they have made 69 percent of these shots.  Against Ohio State, only 9 of Michigan’s 47 field goal attempts came from in close; this is a mere 19 percent of all shots coming at the cup.  Beilein’s team did well on these shots, going 8-9 at the rim, but Ohio State was able to limit a major portion of the Michigan attack.

Michigan point guard Trey Burke typically gets about one out of every four of his shots off at the rim.  Against the Buckeyes he went 1-2 from in close.  Freshman Glenn Robinson has taken one half of his attempts on layups and dunks, but against Ohio State he only got to the rim one time.  Three out of every four Jordan Morgan shots are directly at the basket, but he only took one shot from in close in Columbus.  

Matta’s defense did well protecting the rack, and was successful both in half court sets as well as in transition.  Coming into the game, 48 percent of Michigan’s transition attempts came at the rim, but Sunday the Buckeyes lowered this number to 38 percent.  And in half-court situations, Michigan hardly sniffed the basket.  Only 12 percent of the Wolverines' initial shots in half-court play came from in close, compared with their season average of 29 percent.

With so few attempts coming from in close, Michigan had to rely on jump shots.  The Wolverines have been good shooting jumpers this season, averaging 43 percent on two point jump shots and 41 percent from three.  Against Ohio State’s stout D, Beilein’s team only hit 22 percent of their two point jumpers and 30 percent of their threes.  Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, both of whom are terrific shooters, had hard afternoons.  Burke was 1-6 on two point jump shots and 2-5 from downtown, while Hardaway was 2-7 from mid-range and 1-6 from beyond the arc.  

For the most part this season, Ohio State opponents have not shot the ball well on jump shots, averaging a 28 percent shooting percentage from mid-range and only 31 percent from three.  Still, for a team that shoots as well as Michigan typically does, the poor output by the Wolverines is surprising.  One thing Ohio State did very well against Michigan was to limit catch-and-shoot opportunities.  Typically, 79 percent of Michigan threes are assisted, and 28 percent of their two point jumpers come off of an assist.  On Sunday, only 67 percent of Michigan’s threes were assisted, and not a single two point jump shot was scored with an assist.

Ohio State did a fantastic job of disrupting Michigan’s outstanding offense.  The Buckeyes forced turnovers, protected the rim, and challenged shots.  At least for one afternoon in Columbus, Beilein’s unstoppable offense was shut down.