Michigan State tops No. 4 Ohio State to boost tourney chances
Don’t look now, but Sparty appears to be back.
Just nine days ago, Michigan State lost for the sixth time in eight games in a 10-point loss to Purdue to fall to 10-9. The Spartans’ fortunes have changed in a hurry, culminating in Thursday’s 71-67 home win over No. 4 Ohio State.
The win vaunts Michigan State to 13-9 and 7-9 in the Big Ten. It’s also the team’s second top-five upset in three days, as the Spartans knocked off No. 5 Illinois by nine points on Tuesday.
Long considered an afterthought for an NCAA tournament berth, Michigan State has now played itself back into the mix for an at-large bid.
Whereas Michigan State led for much of the way against Illinois, Thursday’s game was back-and-forth the entire way. The Buckeyes led by five at halftime, though Michigan State tied the game before the first media timeout. Neither team led by double digits for the entire game.
The Spartans took their first lead of the second half with under three minutes to go on a pair of free throws by Malik Hall. The Michigan State defense put the clamps on Ohio State down the stretch, not allowing a made field goal over the game’s final four minutes.
Junior forward Aaron Henry led the charge for the Spartans, scoring a team-high 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting. He also grabbed four rebounds with four assists, two steals and three blocks. Junior Gabe Brown was the only other Michigan State player in double figures, scoring 11 points with five boards.
The Buckeyes’ top scoring duo, E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr., combined for 35 points but struggled from the field. The pair shot 11-for-29, with Washington going 1-for-7 on three-point attempts. Senior guard CJ Walker had 12 points and a team-high five assists off the bench.
Ohio State has now dropped back-to-back games for the first time this year. The Buckeyes play next on Sunday at home against Iowa. Michigan State faces Maryland on the road on Sunday, followed by a home game against Indiana next week before finishing with back-to-back games against Michigan.