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Ohio State pulls a dominating upset over No. 1 Michigan State, 80-64

Keita Bates-Diop continues to make his case for Player of the Year.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

On Sunday, in front of an uncharacteristically enthusiastic capacity crowd at the Value City Arena, the Ohio State Buckeyes (13-4, 4-0) completed an impressive upset of the No. 1 Michigan State Spartans (15-2, 3-1), 80-64, in their only matchup of the regular season. The win gave Ohio State eight wins over AP No. 1 ranked teams as an unranked team, the most of any school.

The OSU win broke Sparty’s 14-game winning streak, and marked the 10th loss by a ranked team this weekend. It was also the third time in the two days that a top-five team lost to an unranked opponent. However, if I had to venture a guess, Ohio State won’t be unranked for long.

The energy in The Schottenstein Center was palpable from the tip, and something that Columbus hasn’t seen in many a year. As the Buckeyes were building their lead, the crowd’s excitement made the arena electric, and when MSU mounted their various comeback attempts, the crowd always seemed to be there to give the Buckeyes a boost.

However, the thing that really put the Buckeyes in position for their first signature win of the Chris Holtmann era was the play of junior Keita Bates-Diop. The fourth-year forward had a career night in the scoring column with 32, but his value far surpassed just the buckets he made.

With MSU scoring at will early, Bates-Diop kept the Buckeyes in the game nearly single-handedly. While Jaren Jackson Jr. got five of MSU’s first seven points, KBD scored the first four for the home team. However, despite Bates-Diop hitting his first two attempts, Sparty had the 11-6 lead at the first media timeout at 15:38.

Early in the game, the Buckeyes were making a concerted effort to isolate Kaleb Wesson on the block. He only hit one of his first five attempts from the field, but Holtmann clearly thought that Wesson’s athleticism could be a difference-maker for OSU. While the freshman only finished the game with eight points on 4-9 shooting, his presence inside allowed the Buckeyes to spread the floor, giving KBD and company room to operate.

Michigan State built its early lead on the strength of 4-for-6 shooting in the first 3:32, but went 0-8 over the next 4:34, allowing Ohio State to take a 15-11 lead into the under-12 timeout. The Spartan scoring drought was finally snapped by a Cassius Winston three-pointer 5:30 after their previous bucket.

After the Buckeyes had gone without a bucket for nearly four minutes themselves, C.J. Jackson hit a three from the top of the key, followed immediately by a Spartan triple from Joshua Langford. After a bucket in the paint for Kaleb Wesson, the score was tied at 20 with 7:52 left in the first half.

As sophomore Micah Potter has been getting healthy after early season injuries, Holtmann has been trying to get him some more playing time; especially in an effort to prevent Kaleb Wesson from finding foul trouble. However, Potter picked up three fouls in the first 15 minutes of the game, meaning that if the OSU coaching staff wanted to get Wesson a few minutes of rest, Kyle Young would have to brought into the game as an extremely-stretched wing.

As the clock ticked under two minutes in the first half, and with the score tied at 29, C.J. Jackson got a bucket off of an inbounds play as Gahanna-native Nick Ward was called for goaltending. Then, after KBD poked the ball loose as Ward was spinning to the basket, Andrew Dakich found him on the break, and he slammed it home.

After Ohio State opened a 36-29 lead, Michigan State’s Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo was called for a technical foul. Bates-Diop hit both free throws, and then with time running out, Dakich hit a banked three-pointer from about 28 feet to close the first 20 minutes on a 12-0 run, putting the Buckeyes up 41-29 at the intermission. The dozen points were the biggest deficit that the Spartans had faced all season, but it would get bigger from there.

The Buckeyes were up double-digits over the No. 1 team in the country because they were taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers from the Spartans. In the first half, OSU only turned the ball over three times, while MSU had given it up nine times themselves; five of those turnovers came off of Buckeye steals.

Another reason that the home team was able to build 12-point advantage, was because they held Michigan State’s top-scorer, Miles Bridges, to just five points on 2-9 (22.2%) shooting in the half. Langford led the way for MSU with 10 points, and Jackson Jr. had seven.

Bridges would bounce back in the second half to end up with 17, tied for the most from a Spartan with Langford, but it wouldn’t be enough to close the gap.

One of the questions coming into the game was whether Michigan State’s defense could slow down the Buckeyes’ recent hot shooting. Fortunately for the Scarlet and Gray, they could not. In the first 20 minutes, OSU shot 45.9 percent (17-37) from the floor, but were actually better from the beyond the arc, hitting 5-of-9 (55.6%).

On the other side of the floor, MSU was 10-30 (33.3%) from the floor, and 3-11 (27.3%) from distance in the first 20 minutes.

For Ohio State, Bates-Diop was the unquestioned leader on the floor, pacing all scorers with 16 on 6-13 shooting, included 2-3 from deep. Jackson added seven and Kaleb Wesson had six.

In a battle of Central Ohio big men, the younger Wesson was often matched up against Ward. While the Westerville South Wildcat went 3-8 from the floor, he out scored the Lion who was 0-1, collecting his only first half points from the free throw line.

The second half opened in a thunderous way, as Kaleb Wesson at the top of the key found a driving Williams, who threw it down with authority. Then after Jackson Jr. hit a pair of free throws, Williams hit a three-pointer while McQuaid was called for a foul on Wesson, so the Buckeyes retained possession.

Then, on the inbound pass, Jackson found Bates-Diop who got the layup and one to extend the OSU lead to 49-31. In the early minutes of the period, the action was fast and furious, from six-point possessions to KBD rejecting an attempt in the lane to Jackson juking a defender out of his shoes.

Just 3:11 into the half, Potter picked up his fourth foul while Kaleb Wesson was already on the bench with three of his home. Again with the traditional bigs on the bench, Holtmann went small bringing Young in to spell Wesson. However, shortly thereafter, Jackson hit a three-pointer to put the Buckeyes up 21, 59-38.

Though things started getting a little sloppy as MSU began pressing on offense and turning up the pressure on defense, the Buckeyes were able to increase their lead to 65-42 by shooting 75 percent (9-12) from the floor in the first 8:03 in the second half.

With 11 points, freshman Jackson Jr. picked up his fifth foul with 9:49 left in the half, meaning that a quarter of MSU’s points were now relegated to the bench for the remainder of the afternoon.

However, as should be expected from an Izzo-coached Michigan State team, Sparty refused to give up without a fight, as Langford and Bridges three-pointers sandwiched a Lourawis Nairn Jr. layup to get OSU’s nice lead down to 19, 69-50, at the under-8 media timeout.

Employing a zone-defense for the first time on the afternoon, MSU was able to keep the Buckeyes at bay and to go on a 10-0 run, cutting the lead to 69-55. However, Bates-Diop ended the scoring drought with a major slam that gave him 28 on the day, a new career-high. However, he wasn’t done just yet.

KBD was responsible for three of four Buckeye baskets, which gave him 32 points on the game. The accomplishment made him the first OSU player to score more than 30 since D’Angelo Russell had 33 against Northwestern in 2015. It also marked the 10th 30-plus point game for the Buckeyes in the decade.

While guarding an unsuccessful Winston three-point attempt, Jackson came down awkwardly and had to leave the game with 14 points and six rebounds. However, the Buckeyes still led 79-62 with 1:45 remaining in the game, a margin that they would not be able to overcome.

While KBD led all scorers with 32, he also contributed seven boards, the most for a Buckeye. In addition to Bates-Diop’s monster game, three other players finished in double-figures, Jackson, Tate (13), and Williams (10).

The Ohio State Buckeyes will return to the hardwood on Thursday, Jan. 11 as they host the Maryland Terrapins at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2.