Ohio State hit 11 threes, shot 51.9 percent in the first half and got a strong performance from its lone junior, Marc Loving. It wasn’t enough.
Ohio State (19-12, 11-7) couldn’t do enough defensively, allowing 40 points in the paint to No. 2 Michigan State as the Spartans (26-5, 13-5) got a 91-76 win on senior day and handed the Buckeyes their sixth double-digit road loss of the season.
Hot shooting kept Ohio State within striking distance early as JaQuan Lyle hit three three-pointers in the first half and scored 14 in the opening 20 minutes, but the Buckeyes couldn’t stay in front of the Spartans defensively.
“To me that’s the best team in the nation, that’s what they do," Lyle said. "They executed real well (today) like they did a couple of weeks ago, like they do every night. Credit to them for making plays.”
A layup from Denzel Valentine with 1:44 left in the first half pushed the home team’s lead to double digits for the first time at 42-31 and while the Buckeyes would be within single digits twice before intermission, the Spartans took a 47-37 lead into halftime and controlled the second half en route to their sixth straight win and 10th in their last 11 games.
Michigan State led for all but 3:59 of the game and the Buckeyes were down 10 or more for the entirety of the second half.
“Obviously they were high-powered offensively," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "We were fixated on one thing defensively too much and we needed to see two things going on. Rotation-wise we weren’t where we needed to be. We didn’t have the pressure on the basketball that we probably needed to disrupt and I thought we did a little bit better job in the second half with it, but they were just sort of picking what they wanted and got it on us.”
The Spartans continually got to the rim as the Buckeyes over-helped on screens and crisp ball movement cost the visitors. Michigan State, which entered the game with the highest three-point percentage in the country and with the nation’s top individual shooter in Bryn Forbes, struggled from outside early but assisted on 17 of its 19 first-half field goals to pound the Buckeyes in the paint. The Spartans finished with 29 assists, better than the nation-leading 20.8 assists per game they carried into the contest.
“I think that’s something that sort of separates them in terms of they’ve got a really good understanding of who’s open, executing what they’re doing," Matta said. "They had the ball moving and guys were where they were supposed to be and they found them.
"They just made big shot after big shot after big shot. It was one of those where they were rolling for 40 minutes. We kept saying, ‘If we can get three-consecutive stops one time we can crack into this thing.’ It just wasn’t meant to be in that regard because they did not miss.”
Forbes, who hit seven of the Spartans 14 threes in the first meeting between the teams and was coming off a Big Ten record 11 threes in Michigan State’s win over Rutgers Wednesday, struggled to find his shot early, missing his first four attempts from distance. The seniors first three of the night, one that came on the heels of a Valentine triple, extended the Spartans lead to 20 at 67-47 with 12:47 left in the game, capping off a 10-1 run for the home team.
Valentine scored or assisted on all 10 of the points during the run that put the game out of reach for good, part of a dominant performance in the senior’s last game in the Breslin Center. He finished with 27 points on five threes and 13 assists.
"He’s got great intelligence; he’s always looking to make the right read," Matta said. "When you do that and you shoot the basketball at the level he can shoot it — I think he was 5-for-6 from 3 today and the one he missed was at the end of a shot clock — he made us pay going under a handoff, he made us pay going over by a re-screen, he hit a triple in transition. With his size, he just does a great job of understanding what is going to happen before it happens.”
Loving free throws followed the Forbes three, but Ohio State’s field goal drought would continue, stretching for 5:25 until the junior hit a three with 10:39 remaining.
That was part of a 15-point second half from Loving as he finished with a team-high 21 points. Lyle, meanwhile, scored just four points in the second half and finished with 18. Kam Williams added 15 off the bench. The Buckeyes shot 47.4 percent in the loss (26 of 55), but that paled in comparison to the lights out shooting of Michigan State, which finished the afternoon hitting 66.7 percent of their shots (34 of 51).
“I mean, they couldn’t miss," Loving said. "They shot 69 percent from the field in the first half or something like that and they were knocking down some tough shots. We were making them take some tough shots in the first half but they were able to put them through.”
The loss makes the Buckeyes either the No. 6 or 7 seed in the Big Ten Tournament depending on the outcome of Iowa’s game at Michigan tonight. Regardless, Ohio State will play Thursday evening in Indianapolis.