Michigan State came into Value City Arena Saturday and put on one of the greatest shooting displays of the modern era of college basketball. The Spartans hit 10 of their first 11 shots on their way to a 73.3 percent showing from the floor (33 of 45) in an 84-70 win before 17,337.
How good were the Spartans on Saturday? They led 48-30 at halftime after connecting on 21 of 26 shots (80.8 percent) from the floor, including 6 of 8 from behind the three-point arc. OSU got the lead down to 11 points on three different occasions in the second half, but could draw no closer.
"If we don't hit those shots, the game at halftime is much closer," said MSU coach Tom Izzo, whose team improved to 12-8 overall and 7-2 in Big Ten play. "You have to give Ohio State credit for the way it played in the second half. We knew they would make a run. But you have to give our guys credit. We just shot the ball so well. It was not bad defense.
"This is a big win for us because I have great respect for this program. They are getting better."
MSU just missed breaking its own school record for field goal percentage in a game. They missed their last three shots from the floor, coming up just short of their own school record of 73.8 percent in a 1987 win against Minnesota. OSU's record for field goal percentage by an opponent fell. That record had been 69.6 percent by Indiana in 1983.
The Spartans' hot shooting was also the third-best percentage in a Big Ten conference game ever. The record of 75.5 percent (37 of 49) is held by Purdue in a game against Michigan in 1981.
In that first half, MSU made seven consecutive shots at one stage and never missed two shots in a row. In the first half, OSU attempted 18 free throws, making 12, while MSU never got to the line. And yet the Spartans led by 18 at the intermission.
OSU coach Jim O'Brien tried a number of different defenses -- man, zone and even some backcourt pressure. When asked what was working, he replied, "Nothing."
"I think in the first half, particularly, it was a combination of us not being as aggressive as we need to be defensively," O'Brien said. "I thought they got a lot of open opportunities. More than anything, it was their ability to make shots.
"I don't remember a game I was affiliated with where one team shot 80 percent in a half or even 73 percent in a game. They are every bit as good as any team we've played this year."
Maurice Ager connected on 7 of 9 shots from the floor to lead MSU with 18 points. Chris Hill added 16 points, while Kelvin Torbert was 6 of 7 -- including 3 of 3 from behind the three-point arc -- to finish with 15 points. Alan Anderson added 12 points and Paul Davis scored 11.
Tony Stockman led Ohio State (11-11, 3-6) with 18 points, hitting 5 of 8 shots from behind the three-point line. Velimir Radinovic added 17 points and seven rebounds. Terence Dials chipped in 13 points, although he had six of OSU's 12 turnovers. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham had 10 points and four assists.
"They shot lights out," Radinovic said of MSU. "We came out kind of soft defensively. They got too many open shots. They were even making contested shots. They continued to do that in the second half."
MSU scored on 21 of its 30 possessions in the first half. The Spartans' string of seven straight made shots allowed MSU to go from leading 6-5 to up 22-10 with 10:56 left in the first half. Ager had seven of his points during this stretch.
Torbert later hit back-to-back three-pointers and Ager canned a 19-foot jumper to give MSU its biggest lead at 46-26 with 1:39 left. Hill missed a three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, otherwise MSU would have ended up the half 21 of 25 from the floor.
Torbert again put the Spartans up 20 in the second half, scoring a layup in transition off a turnover for a 59-39 lead with 15:10 left.
Ohio State then went on a mini run, outscoring MSU 12-3. Fuss-Cheatham had a three-pointer and Stockman hit three during this spurt, the last one cutting the Spartans lead to 62-51 with 12:06 left.
OSU then had two possessions to try and get closer. But Fuss-Cheatham was whistled for a player control foul on the first one and OSU lost possession on a shot clock violation. Hill answered with a three-pointer at the other end for MSU.
The Buckeyes twice got the lead down to 11 again, the last time on a spinning bank shot by Dials to make it 71-60 with 7:13 left. But they could draw no farther. The biggest dagger came with 4:49 left as Hill drove through the OSU defense for a layup to beat the shot clock and give his team a 77-62 lead.
"Those things take the wind out of your sails," O'Brien said. "There was just too much of a hole to keep fighting out of."
* J.J. Sullinger had another rough game, hitting just 1 of 7 shots from the floor. He finished with seven points and six rebounds for OSU.
* MSU set several Value City Arena records with its shooting. The 33 field goals broke the previous opponent mark of 29 set by Kansas in 2000. The 73.3 field goal percentage is also an arena mark for an opponent, breaking the record of 63.2 percent set by MSU in a win two years ago.
* MSU won in Columbus for the third straight time and is now 3-2 all-time in Value City Arena. The Spartans have also now won 17 of the last 20 games in the series, dating to 1992.
* OSU will have a week off before visiting No. 14 Wisconsin next Saturday at 7 p.m. (ESPN). The Badgers defeated OSU 69-57 Jan. 28 in Columbus.
* O'Brien revealed after the game that guard Nick Dials, who missed his second straight game, will miss about a month due to a stress fracture in his right wrist. Forward Matt Sylvester is also sidelined with a foot injury, but could return within two to three weeks, O'Brien said.
* Saturday was designated as National Coaches vs. Cancer Awareness Day by the Philly Six Coaches vs. Cancer organization and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. O'Brien, Izzo and each of their wore sneakers in place of their usual dress shoes to help raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer. O‘Brien also urged fans to wear sneakers as well.
"Jimmy called me in the middle of the week about that," Izzo said. "I think he wanted to make sure we would look a bit goofy together. It was like Revenge of the Nerds 3. But for this cause, it was awesome to see the way everybody got into it."