An airplane boasting a banner that read, “Ass Kickin’ Hot Sauce” flew above Michigan Stadium on Saturday morning. That same day, Ohio State’s men’s lacrosse team matched the condiment’s fiery intensity.
In the Battle of the Big House, the ninth-ranked Buckeyes (2-1 Big Ten, 11-2 overall) scored first, just 13 seconds into the contest. Their efficiency set the tone for the rest of the game en route to an 18-7 victory.
The visitors kept their momentum going with another goal just over a minute later by attacker Jack Jasinski. Michigan (0-3, 8-4) stalled to step up their aggressiveness on the offensive end, firing its first attempt four minutes into the first half. The Wolverines finally scored with 9:57 left in the period after senior Ian King weaved through the Ohio State defense to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Buckeye defense remained stingy, which transitioned into efficient offensive play. Michigan’s shots on goal were either blocked by the goalkeeper or flew just outside of the net. By the time the Wolverines scored their first goal, Ohio State had been 3-for-5 in scoring its shots on goal while Michigan was just 1-for-7.
From the third goal of the game until halftime, the Buckeyes scored on every one of their shot attempts except for their final try in the waning seconds of the first quarter. Ohio State scored once in each of the last four minutes of the quarter, going 7-for-10 before the second-half faceoff.
“It just comes down to execution,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “That’s a Final Four-level team you’re seeing out there. They’re clicking. … They’re executing at a really high level.”
Buckeye attacker Tre Leclaire led the charge for the away team, picking up two goals and three assists before the midway point of the second quarter. One of his goals came after an unnecessary roughness penalty by the Wolverines that gave Ohio State a man-up advantage.
After the team fell behind by eight goals, Michigan replaced junior Tommy Heidt with senior Robbie Zonino in goal, needing an offensive catalyst. Sophomore midfielder Decker Curran had the hot hand. He scored twice in two minutes to cut the lead to 9-3 with 7:22 left in the second quarter. However, Buckeye midfielder Christian Feliziani scored shortly after for his first goal of the season, and Ohio State tacked on one more goal to end the half ahead, 11-3.
The Buckeyes continued their scoring barrage in the second half, scoring just 17 seconds into the third quarter. Their success on faceoffs came from midfielder Jake Withers, who ranks fifth in the country and has a faceoff win percentage of 66. Ohio State scored again two minutes later to widen its lead, 13-3. The Wolverines notched a point with 10 minutes remaining in the quarter by junior midfielder PJ Bogle, but Leclaire struck once again to push the lead to 10.
“Especially early in the game, we struggled,” Paul said. “Their faceoff guy is the best in the country. But I thought we did a really good job getting the ball into ground ball situations and not letting them win stuff clean.”
Again, the Buckeyes’ efficiency was remarkable. By their 14th goal, both teams had attempted 22 shots — Michigan had made just four goals. The Wolverines’ inability to score was due in part to Ohio State’s fourth-ranked defense that allows under eight goals per game.
Curran remained a bright spot for Michigan, though, earning a hat trick in the third quarter. He ended with a career-high four goals. The Wolverines also committed 10 fewer turnovers.
Though the Wolverines ultimately outshot the Buckeyes, 49-34, Ohio State left Ann Arbor with an overwhelming victory. Michigan simply couldn’t execute on the offensive end, as the Buckeye goalkeepers combined to stop 15 shots. It was Michigan’s third loss in three Battle of the Big House contests.
“I liked what our offense was doing and what our offense was getting,” Paul said. “We just weren’t finishing the same way they were.”