The Spartans and Buckeyes played yet another late season game for the ages. Despite not coming down to a last second shot, the Buckeyes still needed to hold on late to secure the 68-60 victory. Aaron Craft put down 21 points and 6 assists, DeShaun Thomas dropped 13 points and 6 rebounds, and Evan Ravenel added ten points of his own. Michigan State freshman Gary Harris led the way for the Spartans with 14 points and 5 rebounds, and was joined in double figures by Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix who both scored 12.
Not surprisingly, the first half was a fast paced affair for both squads. Despite Michigan State’s excellent shooting percentage for the half – just shy of 50% – they weren’t able to open a big lead on the Buckeyes due to turnovers and solid defensive play from the Scarlet and Gray. It all began to unravel at the end of the half, though, as Michigan State took advantage of sloppy decision making from the Bucks to open up a six point lead going into the lockers.
For a brief period, it looked like the Spartans were going to continue the streak from the end of the first half. A quick timeout from Matta allowed the Buckeyes to reset their defense and begin to chip away at the lead. That turned into an OSU lead on a Lenzelle Smith triple with 13 minutes left in the game. That was a part 24-8 run to give the Buckeyes a double digit lead. It was a lead the Buckeyes would not relinquish for the remainder of the game – though not for lack of trying on the Spartan’s part.
After the Minnesota game, we weren’t certain if this team would take the next step. I think it’s safe to say that they’ve now done that. I expect that the Bucks will likely go 2-1 over the next three heading into the Big Ten Tournament, but a win at Indiana could make a huge difference in the outlook for this team this year. We’ll have to see what happens, but things are promising right now.
1. The Buckeyes showed good energy on defense. The fastbreak occasionally left something to be desired, but they put good pressure on the Spartans and did not allow too many easy baskets. That really showed up in the second half, as a timeout from Matta early caused the Buckeyes to lift their intensity and really make life difficult for MSU.
2. Spreading out the scoring. It’s not always a huge problem for the Buckeyes, but today it was particularly evident that the success was coming from many places on the court – including Evan Ravenel’s critical 8 points. This all despite a poor scoring night from Thomas. It’s good to see the Bucks find success without DeShaun playing his usual role.
3. The Buckeyes were particularly efficient on the free throw line, hitting 19-23 for the game. That’s a huge improvement from the usual season average, and was the major difference in OSU’s ability to secure the win.
4. A win over the #4 team in the nation is a huge feather in the cap for the NCAA’s.
1. Rushing the three point shot. The Bucks started the game jacking three point shots very early in the shot clock. Considering our weakness rebounding the basketball on offense – especially against good rebounding teams like MSU – this was probably a poor decision.
2. Rebounding. It’s not too much of a surprise that Michigan State outrebounded the Buckeyes for the game. But a 10 rebound differential is a lot to give up to anyone. Williams needs to work harder on winning the rebounding battles on the defensive end.
The Bucks will next play the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston, Illinois on Thursday, February 28th. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN 2 at 7 pm eastern time.