Ohio State came into East Lansing hoping for a signature win heading into the Big Ten Tournament, but the Michigan State Spartans proved to be one of the best teams in the nation, rolling over the Bucks 91-76.
The Buckeyes got off to a good start in this one, down just one after the under-16 timeout. Marc Loving had five of the Buckeyes eight points, with JaQuan Lyle owning the other three. Matt Costello led Michigan State with six points on 3-of-3 shooting early, with Denzel Valentine contributing two assists.
Michigan State's ball movement and a lack of transition defense on some possessions allowed Michigan State to extend their lead to 17-10. Gavin Schilling and Denzel Valentine were both able to get on the board, with four and two points respectively. The attention drawn by Bryn Forbes allowed for some easy layups underneath the basket.
Kam Williams helped the Buckeyes stay within striking distance. Thanks to a pair of threes from Williams, and a big slam from Trevor Thompson, the Buckeyes trimmed the Michigan State lead to 21-18 with just over 11 minutes left in the first half.
Out of the timeout, Lyle knocked down a deep three after an Ohio State possession that took far too long to develop. Valentine would answer with a three of his own, as well as Alvin Ellis III. The Spartans were able to regain their momentum every time that the Buckeyes seemed to be chipping away at it. A Mickey Mitchell free throw would make it a 27-22 Michigan State lead after the under-8 timeout.
The Buckeyes had a string of offensive possessions where it seemed they just forgot about the offense. The ball almost never made it inside the perimeter, and the Buckeyes were settling for three-point shots. That, coupled with bad defensive rotations on great ball Michigan State ball movement provided the Spartans with a 37-28 lead.
Michigan State appeared that they might be finally stretching out their lead and running away at the end of the first half, after a Valentine three made it a 45-33 game, but Lyle knocked down a deep three, and drew a foul. He made the free throw, and put the Buckeyes down 45-37. A pair of Matt Costello free throws would give the Spartans a 47-37 lead going into the half.
The second half was paced much familiarly to the first. The teams traded baskets, until the Spartans were able to stretch out a lead thanks to a Denzel Valentine three that put the Spartans up 64-47, his fourth three of the game. The crowd at the Breslin Center was rocking, as Forbes followed up Valentine's three with one of his own, making it a 67-47 game with 12:47 remaining.
The 20-point deficit was paced for a few minutes, with both teams trading baskets. Ohio State would knock down a shot, but Michigan State was always able to answer. They truly ran into the Spartans on the wrong day. With nine minutes remaining in the game, the Spartans were shooting 73 percent from the field and 62 percent from deep.
Marc Loving helped trim the Michigan State lead to 77-62 with six and a half minutes left in the game, bringing his point total to 19. Tom Izzo would cal a timeout to get his squad to regroup. Loving would keep the Buckeyes at that pace, but the Spartans were too much to handle. A Matt Costello jumper put the Spartans back up 83-67 with under four minutes to go, and it was clear then that the Buckeyes were not coming back.
Marc Loving would finish the game with 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting. JaQuan Lyle had 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Kam Williams provided 15 points off the bench, including 5-of-7 from deep.
Denzel Valentine finished with a monster stat line, with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 5-of-6 from deep, and 13 assists. Bryn Forbes finished with 14 points, and was held to 1-of-6 from three. Matt Costello had 15 points and 11 rebounds on the afternoon.
3 things we learned:
1. That offense was tough to defend. It's no secret that Michigan State has one of the best offenses in the nation. They are especially tough to guard with a candidate for the Wooden Award in Denzel Valentine, coupled with the sharpshooter in Bryn Forbes. The Buckeyes covered Forbes extremely closely in the first half, but the lack of consistent defensive rotations allowed for easy baskets for Valentine and company.
The Spartans were able to collect 17 assists on 19 made field goals in the first half. They also shot a high percentage from the field, at 67.9 percent. The Buckeyes didn't have too much trouble on the offensive end, they shot over 50 percent, but the Spartans were just better. They continued their efficient passing and shooting through the second half, and quickly turned a nine-point lead into a 20-point lead. There were too many ways for the Spartans to go on offense, and it was simply too much to handle for the Bucks.
2. Inexperience hurt today. Being inexperienced is never ideal, but it was a pretty big disadvantage today. The ability of Tom Izzo's team to pick apart the Buckeyes in so many different ways hurt. Although it was Senior Day in East Lansing, and you might have expected emotions to get to the Spartans a bit, it didn't at all. They came out like their usual selves, and that was all they needed. When they started pulling away, the young Buckeyes would abandon the offense, and settle for jumpshots.
This allowed the Spartan lead to grow, and defense to get sloppier. The Buckeyes really didn't play a terrible game in the first half, Michigan State was, and is, just that good. If they locked down Forbes, Valentine got his. If they centered their attention on Valentine, he would dish to Costello or Schilling. The loss shouldn't be one that's going to ruin the morale of the Buckeyes, because this Spartan team could very well cut down the nets in Houston.
3. It was a bad day to play them. Nobody in the nation would have been able to beat Michigan State today, period. The Spartans played flawless basketball. Their defense was solid. They got great production off of the bench, and dominated the Buckeyes in the paint offensively. Typically, that's enough for any team to come away with a victory, but the Spartans truly played one of the more complete games you will see in college basketball. In the first half, they shot 67.9 percent from the field, and 42.9 from three-point range. On top of their good shooting percentage, they shared the rock very well, with 29 assists on 34 made baskets.
Ohio State played a good game on both ends of the floor, but the veteran leadership and efficiency of the Spartans could not be overcome. The team proved their No. 2 ranking to be valid, and further proved they could be the best team in the nation. Marc Loving's effort to keep his team in the game was very strong, but it wasn't enough. Now, the Buckeyes will hope to make enough noise in the Big Ten Conference Tournament as a last gasp in proving their worth to the NCAA Tournament committee.