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Men's Basketball: Plenty of familiarity in Ohio vs. Michigan matchup
The Bobcats and Wolverines have not met on the hardwood in more than 40 years, but Friday’s game between the two teams in the NCAA Tournament will not lack familiarity.
Many of Ohio’s players, as well as its coach, have competed with or against members of Michigan’s team during some point in their careers.
Ohio guard Walter Offutt played against the Wolverines while at Ohio State before transferring to Athens.
Offutt is also familiar with Michigan’s Zack Novak and Stu Douglass from high school games in Indiana.
“Stu Douglass and Zack Novak are friends of mine,” Offutt said. “I had a little bit of conversation with them probably a couple nights ago. It will be fun to be out on the court with them, playing with the guys we grew up with.”
The same can be said about Ohio guards Nick Kellogg and Stevie Taylor and Michigan point guard Trey Burke.
Taylor and Burke played on the same All-Ohio Red AAU team as high schoolers and played against Kellogg.
The three also competed against in each other in high school games. Taylor’s Gahanna Lincoln team defeated Burke’s top-ranked Northland team in the regional finals during the 2010 state tournament, but Taylor said those games are in the past.
“We’re both in college, this is a new thing,” Taylor said. “This isn’t a Stevie Taylor vs. Trey Burke matchup, this is an Ohio vs. Michigan matchup.”
Junior forward Reggie Keely preached the same message.
“We can't get caught up in personal battles,” Keely said. “It's not one person against another person just because you know each other. You got to stay focused and come out and play our game plan and hopefully get the win.”
In order for Ohio to pull out the win, it will likely have to shut down the 3-point shot, something it has excelled at this season. The Bobcats rank 13th in the country in that category.
With a lack of size up front, the Wolverines rely heavily on 3-pointers. Only 10 teams in the country rely on the 3-point shot more than Michigan does.
Novak said they recognize Ohio’s ability to guard the 3-point line, but still expect to get open shots.
“They'll let you catch the ball, but afterwards it seems like they try to eat you up,” Novak said. “They force a lot of turnovers. They guard the three-point well. You know, I think if we execute, we should be able to get some good looks.”
The Wolverines do not start a player taller than 6-foot-8, and lack depth at the forward position.
“We realize we have a size advantage,” Keely said. “We got three post players in rotation and we're all capable of having big games. We got to come out ready to play. We realize they're smaller on their side and we got to use our physicality and our size to our advantage.”