With a golden opportunity to notch its biggest win of the season and boost its NCAA Tournament résumé, Ohio State again fell short against arguably the Big Ten's best team.
Michigan State won't win the regular season conference title, but the No. 2 Spartans put on an offensive clinic to dispose of Thad Matta's team Saturday, 91-76. It is the second time in 11 days the Spartans beat the Buckeyes, winning 81-62 Feb. 23 in Columbus.
Led by Big Ten and National Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (26-5, 13-5 Big Ten) shot an absurd 67 percent from the field and tallied 29 assists on 34 made field goals. Valentine finished with a game-high 27 points and dished out a career-high 13 assists.
He and Bryn Forbes hit back-to-back 3-pointers near the 13-minute mark to give the Spartans their largest lead of the game, 67-47. The Buckeyes got within 14 twice in the latter stages of the game, but not any closer.
Six Spartans scored at least seven points. Forbes finished with 14, while Matt Costello added 15 and corralled 11 rebounds.
|OHIO STATE||STAT||MICHIGAN STATE|
|27-57 (47)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||34-51 (67)|
|11-23 (48)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||8-16 (50)|
|11-21 (52)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||15-20 (75)|
Ohio State (19-12, 10-7) managed to stay in the game early behind 14 first-half points from freshman guard JaQuan Lyle, but Michigan State found space inside often for easy looks at the rim. As a result, the Spartans shot 68 percent in the opening 20 minutes, dished out 17 assists on 19 made field goals and led 47-37 at intermission. Michigan State scored 28 points in the paint before halftime.
Ohio State finished 11-of-23 from beyond the arc, but made just 11-of-21 free throws — something you cannot do against the country's elite teams.
Marc Loving scored 21 points while shooting 6-of-9 from the field to lead Ohio State. Lyle added 18 and Kam Williams nailed five 3-pointers off the bench to finish with 15.
The Spartans will be the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which opens Wednesday in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes await the outcome of the Michigan-Iowa game Saturday evening before learning their seed. If the Wolverines win, Ohio State is the 5- or 6-seed, but if Iowa wins the Buckeyes are the 7-seed.