OSU (19-13) will sit and wait for two days to find out its NCAA Tournament fate after a 67-60 loss in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament to Michigan State Friday afternoon in Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The win gave the rubber match in the season series to the fourth-seeded Spartans (25-7) and leaves the Buckeyes on the bubble when a win would almost assuredly punched No. 5 seed OSU's tickets to the Big Dance.
And as the song goes, the wait until the Sunday night selection show just might be the hardest part.
"Of course, with what we've done this past week in beating Michigan State and Purdue," senior Jamar Butler said when asked if OSU deserved a bid. "(Over the next couple of days) I'm going to sit back and try to make it like a normal day, which it won't be. I'll have my fingers crossed."
The Buckeyes led sparingly against the Spartans, ranked 19th nationally, but played a spirited contest in a game that easily surpassed much standard conference tournament fare when it came to intensity. However, the Buckeyes were undone by a Michigan State team that used a fast-break advantage to jump out to an early lead and then came home on the hot shooting of guard Drew Neitzel.
The gritty Spartan finished with 28 points, making 9 of 17 shots overall and 6 of 10 from three-point range. He finished with 14 points in each the first and second half.
If the Buckeyes fail to reach the NCAA Tournament they'll likely look back on a second half that was undone both by officiating and the Scarlet and Gray's own mistakes. Two crucial sequences turned the tide against the Buckeyes after the teams came out from the break tied at 30.
With the Spartans leading 35-34 and 12:39 remaining in the game, MSU's Goran Suton was blocked by Buckeye Kosta Koufos. Suton kept control of the ball, though, and went up for a second try only to be blocked again by Othello Hunter.
However, the whistle blew signifying a foul on the Buckeye senior, and Hunter immediately yelled out in frustration, earning a dubious technical foul.
Neitzel stepped to the line and make both free throws stemming from the technical, then Suton drained both from the original shot to extend MSU's lead to five at 39-35.
Ohio State, the tournament's fifth seed, fought back to make the score 47-45 in favor of MSU with 7:43 left on a long trey by Butler, but things quickly went sour again for OSU. Late in the shot clock on the other end, MSU freshman Durrell Summers buried a three-pointer from the left corner, and then a turnover by Evan Turner on the led to a layup by Summers with 6:47 left.
The score now read 52-45 in favor of the Spartans. OSU twice cut the lead to three in the remaining time but Neitzel both times scored on the next possession, the latter a three-pointer with 1:21 left that made the score 61-55 and served as the backbreaker.
Ohio State received a varied scoring output, as Koufos led the team with 19 points, David Lighty had 12, Butler had 11 and Hunter 10.
Koufos was the workhorse early, though the freshman did not start for the second game in a row in favor of senior Matt Terwilliger. Koufos came off the bench and promptly made two shots, and the Canton GlenOak product had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half while the rest of his team made 7 of 23 shots.
None was bigger, though, than a three-pointer with 4.5 seconds left by Butler that knotted the score going into the second half. Before that, OSU did not lead and was even only at 0 and at 9 with for a combined total of 34 seconds.
Two of Michigan State's first four baskets came after offensive rebounds and another came when Neitzel beat MSU down the court for a layup, but the Buckeyes stayed in it after the early struggles, continuing to chip away mainly thanks to Koufos.
The second half saw physical play skyrocket, and OSU had reached 10 fouls in the first 11 minutes, though some left the Buckeye faithful wondering what happened to the referees who called just nine combined fouls between the teams in the first half.
While OSU was trying to dig out of its second-half hole, Hunter stepped up to make all four of his second-half field goals to finish with 10 points, all in the final stanza.
The Buckeyes held MSU, the Big Ten's best team in terms of field-goal shooting, to just 36.7 percent for the game and 32.1 percent in the second half. Raymar Morgan and Kalin Lucas each had eight points for Michigan State to help Neitzel.
The win was the first-ever for Michigan State over the Buckeyes in a Big Ten tournament game. The only previous contest between the two came in 2003, when OSU upset the Spartans 55-54 in the semifinals on Charles Bass' free throw in the dying seconds.
For the first time, an OSU team coached by Matta, who entered the tournament with the best winning percentage in the event's history at .750 (6-2), goes home one-and-done in the conference tourney. Now, the waiting begins.
Stay tuned to BuckeyeSports.com for continuing coverage of the loss and what it means for OSU.