Once again, Jamar Butler did all he could to keep Ohio State in the game but in the end Sparty's superior depth, rebounding and a huge first half lead proved too much to overcome in a 66-60 defeat tonight in the Breslin Center.
The game got out of hand early as OSU missed 8 of their first 9 shots before Kosta Koufos hit a short jumper pulling OSU to 11-5 with at the 12:33 mark. Izzo's squad promptly responded with a 16-2 run featuring buckets by 5 different players to take a commanding 27-7 lead with 7:12 remaining in the half.
The MSU lead would swell to 32-11 before a Matt Terwilliger triple sparked a 10-2 run to close the half cutting the lead to 34-21. Still, it didn't appear OSU would make a game of it considering the Spartans led 19-12 on the glass and 16-6 in bench points while holding the Buckeyes to 33% from the floor including 14% (1/7) from distance.
To Thad Matta's credit, however, OSU came out of the locker room looking to build on the momentum generated with the late first half burst.
Butler got it started with a three pointer to eclipse the 1,000 point mark for his career setting off a 15-5 run capped by another Terwilliger three slicing Sparty's lead to 39-36 at the 15:41 mark. Amazingly, the two runs combined allowed Ohio State to outscore MSU 25-7 over the 7 minute span.
After a horrid opening stanza, Othello Hunter scored 7 of his 8 points in the second half including a big bucket pulling OSU to 49-45 with 9:50 to go.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes would go without a field goal over the next 4 minutes scoring just 3 points on a free throw from The Ghost of Jon Diebler before Butler hit a pair at the stripe making it 55-48 with 6:54 remaining. Butler got zero help the rest of the way scoring OSU's last 14 points twice cutting Sparty's lead to 5 in the final minutes.
In the end, this was a game Ohio State wasn't expected to win and certainly didn't deserve to win. The Buckeyes were outrebounded 39-28 including a ridiculous 17-6 on the offensive glass as Izzo wore down the outmanned OSU frontline by rotating his bigs throughout the night. At last count, MSU turned those o-boards into at least 21 second chance points.
Supporting Butler's 21 points and 7 assists, Terwilliger added 8 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes while Hunter chipped in with 8 points and 3 caroms. David Lighty also added 8 points and 5 rebounds however he missed two costly free throws with OSU trailing 59-53 with just over 3 minutes to play. Shockingly, Lighty had just 2 turnovers while fellow turnover machine Evan Turner had 3 miscues to go along with 7 points and 3 boards.
With another decent performance from PJ Hill (2 reb, 2 stl, 0 TO) in limited action, I'm beginning to wonder if he shouldn't get more minutes at the point so Butler can look to score even more from the 2 spot. Taking a few minutes away from either Lighty or Turner might decrease turnovers and give Butler a little on court rest. Plus, as Corey and I discussed, Butler doesn't run the high pick and roll with the same effectiveness as Conley did limiting his scoring opportunities off the bounce.
Trust me, I'm not saying Hill should get 20+ minutes but maybe 12-15, playing alongside Butler for most of those, might help generate a few more points.
Lastly, from the Who Gives A Damn file, the Buckeyes dropped to 27-1 in games where Terwilliger records at least 4 points. That said, give Da Wiggler his due. He played a pretty good game tonight especially compared to Koufos' 4 point (2/7 FG), 4 rebound, 3 block effort.