Ohio State discovered just how precious they are Sunday afternoon (and early evening) as the 19th-ranked Buckeyes dropped a heartbreaking 62-59 double overtime decision to No. 14 Michigan State before a raucous sellout crowd of 18,500 at Value City Arena and a national television audience on CBS.
Defense was the order of the day as Ohio State (12-2, 2-2) held MSU (14-4, 2-2) scoreless for the final 7:20 of regulation to force the first overtime. But the Buckeyes hit just 35.5 percent of their shots (23 of 70) for the game, repeatedly missing opportunities to snatch the game away.
"I would be stating the obvious to say this was a big game," said MSU coach Tom Izzo. "But the way we won, with the defensive performance we gave on the best shooting team I've seen ever on film. They are a tough cover team and we did a heck of a job with some of their guys."
Izzo was relieved to see his team get back to .500 in the conference. The Spartans denied Ohio State sole possession of second place behind Big Ten unbeaten Wisconsin, which visits OSU on Wednesday.
"Somebody had to come in here and beat them because I'm not sure their road (schedule) is as tough," Izzo said. "I think we did the league favor – we did ourselves a favor."
Ohio State coach Thad Matta realizes he will need to use some psychology to get his team to bounce back from such a tough home defeat.
"Like any win or any loss, you have to look at it quickly and improve," Matta said. "This is not a game that makes or breaks our season. We have to find a way to get back and pick up our spirits. When you play in the best conference in basketball, you better get ready to go.
"For our players to come out and compete like they did, it's exciting. But now it's our responsibility to come back. If you dwell on a loss in this league, you're going to get your ass kicked the next night. It's too good."
Shannon Brown led Michigan State with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in 45 minutes. Paul Davis chipped in 18 points and 12 rebounds in 43 minutes, while Matt Trannon added 14 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes of action.
Center Terence Dials went 48 minutes for OSU, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"Both teams played hard and played great defense," Dials said. "Michigan State just made more plays at the end to win the game. It was a battle tonight."
Matt Sylvester hit a pair of three-pointers late in the second overtime. He finished with a season-high 17 points in 40 minutes.
"They have been in a lot of games like that, not saying that we haven't," Sylvester said. "They are a mentally tough and physically tough team that reflects the character of Tom Izzo. We have had a few games like that as well."
OSU trailed for much of regulation time and was behind 46-42 when Davis scored inside with 7:20 left. The Buckeyes inched closer with a basket by Jamar Butler with 5:53 left and then forced overtime, tying the game at 46-46 on Dials' running hook with 34 seconds left. OSU withstood Maurice Ager's missed three-pointer just before the buzzer.
The Buckeyes then trailed 50-48 late in the first overtime. But Sylvester rebounded a miss by Je'Kel Foster and scored with 15.3 seconds left. Davis then missed for MSU and an Ager tip attempt danced around the rim before falling off, sending the game to a second overtime.
Sylvester canned a three with 1:16 left in the second overtime to tie the game at 56-56. But MSU's Drew Neitzel scored on a drive with 44 seconds left to put the Spartans back up 58-56.
The Buckeyes were unable to get a good look on their next possession. Ron Lewis drove the lane and passed the ball off the leg of an MSU defender. It deflected to the corner, where J.J. Sullinger shot an airball on a three-point attempt. Neitzel rebounded and was fouled. His two free throws put MSU up 60-56 with 17.1 seconds left.
Sylvester then canned another long three with 12 seconds left. OSU fouled Davis on the inbounds play. His two free throws gave the Spartans a 62-59 lead with 11.2 seconds left. Butler then brought the ball up and tried a three, but it was off the mark. Sylvester rebounded with four seconds left and tried a shot in the lane. Davis rebounded that miss, and the Spartans got out of Columbus with a big win.
"We had played Gonzaga and Arizona and all of those overtime games," Izzo said. "I told our team I thought we had earned the right to win this game. I looked in their eye and they looked back at me and it was like they were saying, ‘Your damn right we did and we're going to get it done.' "
Izzo discussed the environment at VCA.
"The crowd, with the white towels today, it was an awesome setting," Izzo said. "They did a great job here. Even the officials looked at me before the game and said, ‘The Big Ten is special.' To have a game like this on national TV … to have some games like this, I think it's good for the league."
It was an off night for the leading scorer on each team. OSU's Je'Kel Foster, averaging 15.2 points per game coming in, finished with eight points. Foster added nine rebounds, but was just 3 of 13 shooting from the floor including 2 of 10 on three-pointers. He fouled out early in the second overtime.
"It killed us," Matta said. "If we don't have Je'Kel out there, it's hard. He is a prolific three-point shooter and some of the defense he played in the iso set was tremendous. But you've got to move on and go on without him."
Meanwhile, MSU won despite an off night for Ager, who was averaging a team-high 20.9 points per game. He ended up with two points on a 1-for-11 night from the floor.
"With Maurice being 1 for 11, I didn't think we would be able to win," Izzo said. "But Shannon came through and Paul Davis, Matt Trannon and Drew Neitzel all played well. We had to win it the defensive way."
As It Happened
Ohio State seemed almost too keyed up to open the game. The Buckeyes trailed 29-25 at halftime after shooting just 35.5 percent (11 of 31) from the floor.
MSU scored the game's first four points and jumped ahead 7-5 after a three-pointer by Brown with 15:47 left in the half. OSU knotted the game at 9-9 on a turning hook shot by Dials with 14:54 left in the half.
But Michigan State scored the next six points. Brown got it started with a hook shot, Trannon had a jam and Davis made two free throws as the Spartans surged ahead 15-9 with 11:54 left in the half. MSU got the lead out to eight at 19-11 on a baseline jumper by Brown off an offensive rebound by Davis with 9:04 left in the half.
Foster then helped spark a 10-2 run as the Buckeyes tied the game. Sylvester started the run with a spinning jumper in the lane. Foster then hit a three off a flip back from Sylvester. After MSU's Travis Walton made a baseline jumper, Foster canned a baseline jumper of his own and then buried a three after Dials tipped a Sylvester miss his way. That trey tied the game at 21-21 with 5:08 left in the half.
But the Buckeyes would manage just two more field goals the remainder of the half. MSU grabbed the lead on Trannon's bank shot with 1:32 left and Davis' hook to beat a double team gave the Spartans their 29-25 advantage with 39 seconds left. OSU had one last possession before the half. But Sylvester forced a wild three to try and beat the shot clock and Butler also missed one from the corner at the buzzer.
MSU extended its lead to open the second half as Trannon made a bank shot and Brown had a reverse layup in transition as he beat the Buckeyes back. That put MSU ahead 33-25 with 19:07 left in the game.
Butler and Sylvester canned a pair of three-pointers within 30 seconds of each other to trim the gap to 35-33 with 16:02 left. But a Brown three pushed the lead back out to five at 42-37 with 11:29 left.
Ohio State drew even as Lewis made a jam off a feed from Foster to tie it at 42-42 with 8:39 left. But Davis hit a jumper in the lane and then, after a Sylvester miss, Davis scored easily inside to make it 46-42 with 7:20 left.
Butler hit a jumper in transition to cut it to 46-44 with 5:53 left. Ohio State then went through five possessions and had Dials miss the front end of a one-and-one with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.
OSU got the ball back after a Brown miss with 55 seconds left and went down to Dials. He made a running hook over Davis with 34 seconds left to (finally) tie the game at 46-46.
The Buckeyes had a foul to give, but played out the final seconds of regulation with Foster forcing Ager out for a three-pointer. He missed the shot just before the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
"We had some good defensive stretches," Dials said. "Guys just stepped up and played great defense. Je'Kel's play out top on Ager, that's one of the toughest plays I've ever seen one on one."
The First Overtime
OSU jumped ahead for the first time since the 16-minute mark of the first half on a Dials hook with 3:57 left. But Brown made a nifty drive down the lane to tie it at 48-48 with 2:29 left. That shot ended an MSU scoring drought of nine minutes, 49 seconds.
Brown then poked the ball away from Sylvester and drove for an uncontested dunk that put MSU up 50-48 with 1:52 left. The teams then traded possessions before the Buckeyes got the ball back. Foster tried a 16-foot jumper from the top, but missed. OSU had Dials and Sullinger in position. But in a wild scrum for the ball, it went to Sylvester. He laid it in from six feet out to tie it at 50-50 with 15.3 seconds left.
Again, OSU had to withstand a last-second MSU shot attempt. This time, Davis tried a 14-foot jumper from the lane. But it glanced off the rim. Ager's tip attempt hit the back, front and back of the rim before somehow falling off at the buzzer, sending the game to a second overtime.
The Second Overtime
MSU surged ahead 54-51 on Trannon's three-point play with 3:35 left. Dials then rebounded his own miss and scored to cut it to 54-53 with 3:24 left.
Brown made a driving layup for MSU to go up 56-53 with 2:51 left. Lewis then missed a three, but Sullinger grabbed the rebound. Butler then drove the lane and appeared to be bumped by Neitzel, missing a layup with 2:05 left. Dials then swiped an errant pass by Davis, giving the Buckeyes new life.
Sylvester, whose clutch three-point shooting has become legendary at OSU, then hit a 22-foot three to tie the game at 56-56 with 1:16 left.
But the Spartans answered. MSU took the lead for good as Neitzel came off a high screen by Davis and drove down the right side of the lane and scored to make it 58-56 with 44 seconds left.
"It was clutch," Izzo said of Neitzel's layup. "He had a lot of courage to take it."
OSU had a timeout left, but Matta opted to play it out. The clock ticked down inside 25 seconds when Lewis drove the lane and was bottled up. His pass was deflected to the right corner, where Sullinger plucked it and tried a three-pointer with 19 seconds left. The shot flew over the rim to Neitzel, who was immediately fouled by Davis.
"They're tired and we're tired," Matta said of the ill-fated attempt to tie the game. "It was a long game and an intense game. I'm sure we were a bit winded. But we had to play through it."
Neitzel's two free throws put MSU up 60-56. Sylvester's three trimmed the gap to one at 60-59. Davis' two free throws made it 62-59. Butler then attempted the game-tying three, but missed. When Sylvester tried a shot in the lane instead of looking back for a three, that was the end of the line for OSU.
"The mind-set of the whole thing, honestly, I forgot we were down three," Sylvester said. "I got the ball and didn't know how much time was left. It was just a reaction."
Matta said he was looking for Butler to penetrate and dish for a three, although the point guard also had the green light if he was open.
"We're down three with 12 seconds left," Butler said. "The opportunity we have is to come down and try to get a good shot off. If we miss, we try and get the rebound and come back out. It just didn't work out."
* Dials notched his first double-double of the season and the 11th of his career.
"I thought Terence really played well," Matta said. "I thought he battled. It was very physical down there. There was a lot of banging going on. It's a credit to him that he played through it. It's a tribute to him and how far he's come to play 48 minutes at the level he played."
Ironically, Dials increased his career scoring total to 1,287. He is now 22nd in career scoring at OSU, moving past Clark Kellogg (1,285 points from 1980-82). Kellogg called the game along with Gus Johnson for CBS.
* Butler added seven points, seven rebounds and five assists for OSU. Sullinger and Lewis each had four points. Sullinger was 1 for 8 from the floor.
* Michigan State leads the all-time series with OSU at 59-46. OSU is now 32-20 in Columbus against MSU.
* Michigan State has won seven of the last eight games against Ohio State. OSU's lone win since 2001 was a 55-54 win over the Spartans at the 2003 Big Ten tournament. MSU won the only meeting 83-69 last year in East Lansing.
* OSU is now 2-4 all-time against MSU at Value City Arena. MSU had won in its last three trips to VCA.
* Ohio State is now 23-7 in sold-out games at Value City Arena, which includes a 19-5 record vs. Big Ten opponents and a 9-1 record vs. ranked conference foes in sold-out games.
* OSU is now 100-23 all-time in VCA, including 9-1 this year.
* OSU is now 32-13 under Matta, including a record of 24-2 at home.
* This was OSU's second game against a ranked team this season, following a loss at Indiana Jan. 7. OSU is now 2-6 against ranked teams under Matta. In his sixth year as a head coach, Matta is now 11-15 against ranked competition.
OSU is 15-8 overall against ranked teams at VCA, including 15-5 against Big Ten ranked opponents.
* This was the first double overtime game in the eight-year history of VCA. OSU's last double overtime game was a 113-101 loss at LSU on Jan. 15, 2005. OSU's last home double overtime game was the 97-95 win over Indiana on Feb. 17, 1991, at St. John Arena. OSU is 6-5 all-time in double overtime games.
* This was OSU's second overtime game this season, following a 79-69 win over Butler on Nov. 22. OSU is now 1-3 in overtime games under Matta. In his career, Matta's teams are now 5-5 in overtime games.
* The Buckeyes will host No. 21 Wisconsin (14-2, 4-0) at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2.
"They are another tough team," Dials said. "They are another top 25 team. Coach will have us ready to play Wednesday night. We know it will be another good battle. We'll be pumped. We'll put this one in our memory bank and make sure the things that happened today don't happen on Wednesday."
Matta added, "I'm just going to keep marching to the same beat I have had since the day I got to Ohio State. I'm all about trying to get a little bit better. We're not where want to be. You just don't want to be where you were at yesterday. We have to get ready to play another great basketball team.
"If we're not ready to go, something is wrong with us."
* In many respects, the future of the OSU basketball program was in the house for Sunday's dramatic game.
OSU signees Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook and David Lighty were at the game.
Plus, underclassman verbals B.J. Mullens, Walter Offutt and Jon Diebler. Also spotted at the game were top Ohio juniors Dante Jackson and Kosta Koufos. Matta and assistant Dan Peters attended Koufos' high school game Saturday night in the Canton area.