After one of the more disappointing seasons of the last two decades for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, the Buckeyes have won two games in two days in the 2023 Big Ten Tournament as the No. 13 sees, and now advances to the quarterfinals to take on the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans.
The Buckeyes (15-18, 5-15) will take on the Spartans (19-11, 11-8) as they look to get their third win in three days, and what would be their fifth win in 13 days. Ohio State is just the third 13-seed to every win two games in the Big Ten Tournament. With a win, they would become the first team seeded lower than 10 to every make it to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
The Buckeyes have been led by a three-headed monster of Bruce Thornton, Brice Sensabaugh and Sean McNeil so far in the Big Ten Tournament. Thornton and McNeil are both averaging 15 points per game, and Sensabaugh is averaging 12.5 points per contest in the tournament.
Felix Okpara has been great on the defensive end of the ball, and Roddy Gayle Jr., while known for his energy and defense, had nine points in the final three minutes of the game against Iowa to ice things and ensure an Ohio State victory.
It is really no secret what has killed the Buckeyes against Michigan State this season. The Spartans are the third-best three-point shooting team in the country at 40.1 percent as a team. Only Colgate and Toledo are ahead of the Spartans, and only four teams shoot over 40 percent from beyond the three-point line as a team.
The Spartans shot 7-of-22 from beyond the three-point line in the first game, but that did not really matter because the Buckeyes only scored 14 points in the first half and 41 points in the entire game. In the second matchup between the two last Sunday, the Spartans shot 12-of-20 (60%) from beyond the three-point line to take down the Buckeyes on senior day in East Lansing.
The Spartans do not have a dominant big man like some other Big Ten teams, so the Buckeyes can play small ball if they want to. But if they want to have any chance to win this one, they have to figure out a way to stop the Spartans from deep.
Michigan State is led by Tyson Walker, who is averaging 14.8 points per game and shooting 43 percent from three-point range. Joey Hauser is averaging 14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and is shooting 45 percent from three-point range. A.J. Hoggard is averaging 12.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game while facilitating the Spartan offense. Jaden Akins and Malik Hall are averaging 9.6 and 9.5 points per contest, respectively.
For the Buckeyes, freshman Brice Sensabaugh is leading the way, averaging 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds. Justice Sueing is averaging 12.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and Bruce Thornton is averaging 10.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
The Buckeyes are talented enough to beat the Spartans. It may not seem like it after they lost by 21 at home and gave up 84 points last Sunday when they played. But the Buckeyes went toe to toe with them on Senior Night, a game the Spartans have not lost in 11 years.
There are three things the Buckeyes need to do to win this gameL
A) Run Michigan State off the three-point line and force them into difficult shots.
B) Rebound effectively.
C) Avoid turnovers.
If they can do those three things, they will put themselves into position to win this game.
If the Spartans are able to give themselves extra chances — be it from offensive rebounds or forcing turnovers — that is how they are able to get good looks from the three-point line while the defense is scrambling to adjust. They need to prevent that and prevent the transition three from the Spartans.
Avoiding turnovers is key as well, because that gives the Spartans the chance to get out in transition and knock down transition threes, a specialty of Joey Hauser and Tyson Walker. As the old saying goes, it is hard to beat a team three separate times in a season. I predicted in You’re Nuts that Ohio State makes a run to Saturday, and I will stick to it.
Ohio State wins.
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network