ANN ARBOR — He stretched his right arm horizontally, posting it on the side of a nearby locker to allow his 235-pound body to sit idle.
DeShawn Sims had grown tired of losing, and now the man was just tired. The University of Michigan senior forward played with tremendous energy and provided equal production yesterday in a 73-64 win over nationally ranked Ohio State at Crisler Arena.
Sims abused the two players OSU coach Thad Matta threw at him, totaling 28 points and nine rebounds, and Manny Harris added 24 points, including a momentous three-point play late in the game, as the Wolverines showed some semblance of becoming the quality team they were expected to be.
For many reasons, it was UM's biggest win of the season. Aside from the obvious rivalry angle that provided the 13,751 in attendance an added jolt, OSU is a quality team, ranked No. 15 in the latest Associated Press poll. Add to that, UM (7-6, 1-1) had yet to beat any big-name programs in a season that has not followed an expected pleasant path after last year's NCAA tournament bid.
“We had confidence, but it was unsure confidence,” Sims said. “It was more talking about it than being about it. Now that we've beat a ranked team we can build off that.”
On the other hand, OSU may have a heap of problems unlikely to go resolved until do-it-all guard Evan Turner returns in a month from a back injury. No one was able to create offense with real consistency yesterday, although William Buford tried it with varying levels of success. Buford, the former Mr. Basketball from Libbey, completely flipped a poor individual outing around, notching a double-double in the second half alone with 12 points — including eight straight to tie the game — and 10 boards.
“In the second half I just calmed down a little bit and let the game come to me,” said Buford, who finished with 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
When OSU (10-4, 0-2) and UM meet again on either Feb. 27 or 28 in Columbus, the Buckeyes must devise a better plan to stop Sims. In the first half, Dallas Lauderdale and Kyle Madsen shared the unenviable task, and Sims posted 10 points and five rebounds. Lauderdale was largely on his own in the second half, and it wasn't long before he appeared battered if not helpless.
“I was running, I was doing a lot of things to get myself open,” Sims said. “I definitely was moving a lot, so if you're not really mobile it would be hard to contain.”
Jon Diebler led OSU with 17 points on five 3-pointers, but it was a hollow output. Early indications suggested Diebler might go for at least 30 as he notched his 14th point on a 3 with 8:16 left in the first half. But he scored just one more basket while attempting just five second-half shots against an improved UM defense led by a feisty Stu Douglass.
“They just did a nice job of staying home on me,” Diebler said.
Buford erased an eight-point deficit — the largest of the game at that time — midway through the second half, sinking a pair of free throws and then threading consecutive 3s to even the score at 52 with 8:41 to go. OSU went ahead by one shortly thereafter on a P.J. Hill 3 that seemed to ignite the Wolverines, who retaliated with an 11-0 run. During that stretch, Sims scored six points and Harris had four — including one of those three-point plays that gets the crowd jazzed up — to effectively turn the Buckeyes to mush.
“We played with more energy than I think we've played all year,” Harris said. “That came with just making plays and playing against a ranked team.”
OSU's energy level lagged at times, but overall the effort was an improvement, according to Buford and Diebler, over the one the Buckeyes gave in a 22-point loss to Wisconsin on New Year's Eve.
“But a stop here and a stop there, and we hit a couple of shots, then the game might change a little bit,” Diebler said.
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