That again was the case Saturday, as Michigan State won 59-56 on a Denzel Valentine 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left.
”I think you can literally start your own classics channel from the last few years of Ohio State versus Michigan State games,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
It was the seventh game in the past eight that has been decided by four points or less between Matta and Tom Izzo – and the lone other game having an eight-point spread. The teams each have a 4-4 record in those eight games.
”I want to say that the last five or six of these games have come down to the last possession,” Matta said. “They've been on the right side and the wrong side. You've got what I consider to be two of the top college teams in the country over time.
”This was just another classic battle.”
Since Matta took over the Buckeyes in 2004, he and Izzo are 11-11 against each other and since 2007, 15 of the 17 meetings have been decided by 10 points or less.
“If you look at the records over the last five, six, seven years,” Izzo said, “they’ve been games like this it seems like every one is like this, whether we play down there or they play up here.
”I think both coaches have great respect for each other’s programs, both have been very consistent.”
But in that timeframe what the programs have accomplished is just as impressive.
Each has two Final Four appearances, which leads the Big Ten. They also have accounted for eight Big Ten titles – Ohio State with three outright, two shared and MSU with one outright, two shared.
And the winner of the past five Big Ten Tournament championships? It has been either Michigan State (2012, 2014) or Ohio State (2010, 2011, 2013) – with the 2012 title game between the schools resulting in a 68-64 MSU win a week after a 72-70 Ohio State win at Breslin Center.
”Anytime you play against them, it’s going to be a good game,” senior Travis Trice said. “It has shown the past couple years. I know the past four years every time we play them it’s a close one. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Saturday was just the latest chapter of the series, but really, it was a lot like so many of the previous meetings. The final possessions made all the difference and this time, Michigan State came out on top.
”I thought we had them right where we wanted them in terms of how the action developed and (Valentine) shoots off the back foot and it goes in,” Matta said. “I thought our guys competed. I thought we played. I thought we played stretches, and they went on runs that we were unable to answer. They made the final play that they needed to.
And with the way the MSU-OSU series has gone, next time, it could be the Buckeyes with the final play to win.