As is customary when teams tangle with Michigan State, it was a physical affair but the depth-less Buckeyes used a balanced attack and timely runs to steal a roadie 74-67 this afternoon in the Breslin Center.
Evan Turner led four Buckeyes in double figures with 20 points (6/17), including 16 in the second half despite rubber legs, the result of being considerably under the weather. It was the complimentary guys, however, that staked OSU to an early 23-12 lead thanks to a 15-0 run spanning four minutes in which all the starters had at least one field goal. The balanced blitz got an assist from a stingy mostly-zone defense that held Sparty without a field goal (0/9) while forcing two turnovers.
As he usually does when ET struggles offensively, Will Buford was the most instrumental Buckeye in the opening half tallying 13 points and seven boards. Jon Diebler also stepped up with three big triples. Though Turner was held to four points in the half, he did pick up five rips and four dimes while harassing Kalin Lucas into an 0/5 half with one point. For the half, the Buckeye D held Sparty to 33% from the floor, forced nine turnovers and won the glass 21-20 leading to a 39-26 lead as the teams entered the locker room.
Of course, a road W is never easy in East Lansing so it was no surprise Michigan State came out focused on getting physical in a second half war that was helped by both Dallas Lauderdale and Kyle Madsen's foul trouble. Lauderdale picked up his 3rd just :42 into the second half and Madsen racked up his 4th a little over two minutes later. Sparty took advantage of their size and depth racking up points in the paint on putbacks and a slow OSU transition defense closing to 53-50 on a Lucas layup with 9:11 to play.
Turner would stop the 18-7 run with an elbow jumper, a free throw and a teardrop in the lane putting OSU back in front 59-51 with 7:15 showing but the Spartans kept coming. Trailing 61-55, the Spartans got seven straight points from Durrell Summers via a triple, a dunk off a sweet pass from Lucas in transition and a baseline jumper to take a 62-61 lead, their first since early in the first half.
Showing the road moxie we've grown accustomed to witnessing, Ohio State peeled off a 7-0 run as Buford drilled two free throws and Turner hit a leaner in the lane. Then, Turner came up big at the other end swatting Lucas on a drive with the ball caroming off Lucas giving OSU the rock. Showcasing his dominant overall game, Turner drove the right side and hit Diebler for a wide open three as the Sparty defense collapsed. Diebler's confident stroke gave OSU a decisive 68-62 lead with with 1:47 left in regulation.
The Buckeyes would hold serve as David Lighty and Turner combined to hit 6/8 free throws securing the gutty victory.
Despite giving up 41 second half points, Ohio State held Sparty to 41% from the floor for the game and won the rebounding battle 38-32. That's amazing when you consider Lauderdale played only 24 minutes and a large portion of that time was spent in foul-protection mode. Again, hats off to the perimeter guys who not only picked up ET's scoring slack in the first half but battled on the boards.
Turner would finish with 20 points, 10 boards and six assists against four turnovers in an epic effort when you factor in his bout with the flu. Buford posted 17 points and 10 boards and was a beast in the first half collecting seven rips to go along with aforementioned big 13 points. Lighty bounced back from his Purdue no show with 13 points and nine rebounds while Diebler finished with 12 timely points including the dagger three to basically sew it up.
The huge win keeps Ohio State in the conference championship race (11-4), just a half game back of Purdue, and the rest of the regular season slate is fairly friendly as the Buckeyes travel to lowly Penn State on Wednesday before hosting Michigan and Illinois to wrap it up.