For the second game in a row, a young Buckeye squad took one on the chin in a Big Ten road contest. This time, it was No. 8/12 Michigan State sending OSU to the loss by the tune of a 67-58 final decision.
The game marked the second straight conference loss for the Buckeyes (10-3, 1-2 Big Ten). Much like in the team's loss to Minnesota three days prior, the Buckeyes scraped out a first-half lead. This time, it was an advantage that grew to four points, 17-13, on a jumper by William Buford with 8:13 remaining.
The Spartans answered on the following possession by a three pointer from Korie Lucious, snapping a scoreless streak for the home team that had stretched to 4:20.
His basket would ignite the Spartans, who then seized control against a powerless OSU team. During the final 7:42 of the first half, MSU outscored the Buckeyes by a 22-7 margin that was largely created by some hot outside shooting. Lucious' basket ignited a stretch that saw the Spartans hit on 5 of 6 three-point attempts against OSU's match-up zone.
"That was the stretch of the game there," OSU head coach Thad Matta told the Ohio State Basketball Radio Network. "I wish I could put my finger on it with the exception of … they can get you on one thing, then to come back and do it again that's recognizing and understanding what we want to do. They got some buckets, but the things that we knew they wanted to attempt to do, we've got to get better at taking those things away."
During the same stretch, the Buckeyes went 2 for 11 from the floor and turned the ball over three times.
From there, the game looked eerily similar to the loss to the Golden Gophers. OSU was able to man up and mount second-half charges, but it was never able to get back within striking distance of the lead. The Buckeyes also lost to the Spartans by the same final margin as they did to the Gophers.
After winning its first nine games, OSU has dropped three of its last four.
"The runs right now are what gets you," Matta said. "It's like I tell our guys: ‘If you didn't show me signs I'd probably be OK,' but you're seeing signs of playing really good basketball then it disappears. We're flipping that coin on the bench of who can do it, (who can) bring the consistency, effort and flow of what we're trying to do."
In the second half, the Buckeyes were never able to get within closer than eight points of the Spartans (12-2, 3-0), who were 8 for 17 (47.1 percent) from deep.
OSU's best chance to put pressure on MSU came with 9:05 remaining in the game. Trailing by eight, OSU's Jon Diebler had a wide-open look from beyond the arc that didn't go down. On the ensuing possession, MSU's Delvon Roe converted two free throws after grabbing his second offensive rebound of the possession to push the lead back to 10 points.
The way the Buckeyes have performed as of late, it might as well have been a million.
A bright spot for OSU was freshman center B.J. Mullens, who had four first-half points but finished with 16 points and six rebounds as he became a focal point of his team's often stagnant half-court offense.
"That was one of the things that we wanted to do," Matta said. "We wanted to get it inside and pound it inside. I thought our guys did a better job of creating a presence in there."
He was aided by classmate William Buford, who led the way with 17 points. Forward Evan Turner had 14, while Diebler finished with seven points on 1-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Buckeyes were with the services of Nikola Kecman for the first time this season after sitting out the first 12 games due to an NCAA suspension, but he did not see any action for the Buckeyes.
Kalin Lucas led the Spartans with 20 points.