COLUMBUS: The box score shows that Deshaun Thomas took more shots than anyone in the game.
It does not reveal that only two of the 15 came in the final 14 minutes of Ohio State’s 76-74 overtime loss at Michigan. Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, exhaled audibly late Tuesday night when he was apprised of that fact outside the Buckeyes’ locker room in the Crisler Center, but not from frustration.
Thomas led Ohio State with 17 points, but in the last nine minutes of regulation and all five of overtime, his only shots were a missed 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:23 left in regulation and, seconds later — after Nik Stauskas’ outlet pass was tipped to Thomas by teammate Lenzelle Smith Jr. — a made three from the same spot.
“I was just trying to do anything to try to win the ballgame,” Thomas said. “You don’t need a guy that’s going to jack up or force shots. We’ve got to make that defense work. I was just [laying] back and waiting till my time came. I was focused on the other end and getting stops and trying to do what I could do to help the team win.”
Thomas’ time never came. But in his stead, two sophomores whose arrival on a stage like the one Tuesday had long been anticipated finally emerged. LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams combined to score 13 of Ohio State’s last 18 points of regulation.
“They grew up,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ inability to find shots down the stretch was partly by design. Michigan guard Trey Burke said the Wolverines “did a good job of limiting [his] touches,” and coach John Beilein complimented his defense for stiffening when it mattered most.
Ohio State shot 59.3 percent from the field in the second half but, in overtime, missed four of five shots and turned the ball over twice. Point guard Aaron Craft, in whose hands the ball stayed for the most part, attempted four of the shots and had one of the turnovers.
When asked why Thomas did not get a shot, coach Thad Matta said it was a matter of “where we were trying to attack” in overtime.
Craft’s four field-goal attempts and turnover all came in the lane. His last two shots, in the final 10.5 seconds, were blocked by Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., respectively. Either might have drawn a foul call on another night, but not this one. The last play, which ended the game, left Craft on his back on the floor.
“We probably would have gotten that call at home,” Ross said. “You never know on the road.”
Craft was disappointed but did not second-guess his decision.
“I got to the rim [and] got a layup,” he said. “You can look back and think about five different things I could have done, but in the moment, I’m happy with what I did. It just didn’t go our way.”
Hardaway said he expected Burke to be called for a foul on the last play.
“I thought Trey fouled him and I thought the whistle was going to blow, and then I just went for the ball,” Hardaway said. “I saw the ball in my face so I just tried to wrap it up and probably got his arm or something. It was up to the refs to call it and they let it go.”