Never did Ohio State quite pull away and turn it into a true decimation. Never did Chris Holtmann's team truly put Michigan State in the dumpster for a full-throated beatdown.
But the Buckeyes made it look easy. And they made it look easy from the jump.
They led for all but a few minutes early in Sunday's game at the Schottenstein Center, extended their lead to double digits late in the first half and went into halftime with a comfortable lead. They then pulled ahead by as many as 20 points midway through the second half, held off a late Spartans run and eventually secured a 79-62 victory.
Ohio State bumped its record to 14-4 overall and 8-4 within the Big Ten, remaining tied for fourth in the conference while also tying Michigan for the most in-conference victories. It has now won six of its past seven games.
Tom Izzo's squad, despite falling behind from the jump and trailing by 20 points with nine minutes remaining, squashed the deficit to nine points on an Aaron Henry layup with 4:40 to go. That's as close as it came to a comeback on the Buckeyes.
E.J. Liddell and Justice Sueing led the way with 20 and 15 points, respectively, propelling a team that shot 45.5 percent from the floor. CJ Walker added 10 points off the bench, and three others – Justin Ahrens, Seth Towns and Duane Washington Jr. – scored at least seven points. Chris Holtmann put all 11 available scholarship players into the game within the first 15 minutes, utilizing his depth for the victory.
Michigan State managed shot only 32.1 percent from the floor and 5-for-24 from 3-point territory. Joshua Langord led the Spartans with 14 points, but he did so on 14 shot attempts.
The Buckeyes started pulling away early on Saturday afternoon, stretching a lead to double figures by the end of the opening half. And, of course, they did so with quality play from E.J. Liddell.
The sophomore forward made a 3-pointer, secured an and-one and hit a mid-range jumper for eight points within the first four minutes, and on his layup through contact he gave Ohio State a one-point advantage they didn't relinquish. Rather, after swinging back and forth from between two and six points, the home team stretched it out to as many as 14 points on Justin Ahrens' second 3 of the half before entering the locker room for halftime up, 42-30.
Liddell led the team with nine first-half points, and Ahrens added seven. Ohio State had only one turnover in the first half compared to six by Michigan State, which led to eight points by the Buckeyes.
Next up: Ohio State goes to Iowa City, Iowa, to face the No. 4 Hawkeyes on Thursday. The game tips off at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
- Chris Holtmann's starting five remained unchanged: Duane Washington Jr., Justin Ahrens, Justice Sueing, E.J. Liddell and Kyle Young. CJ Walker, a veteran point guard who opened the season as the starter before missing four games to heal torn ligaments in his right hand, came off the bench for the third game in a row.
- Musa Jallow, who effectively had been squeezed out of the rotation, appeared to earn some extra run due to effective late defense against Penn State's Seth Lundy. He entered the game in the first half of the first half before freshman Gene Brown, who had taken some of his minutes.
- Holtmann entered the game with a 1-4 record against Tom Izzo's Spartans as Ohio State's head coach. His team had lost its last four games versus Michigan State.
- The Spartans came into the day with a 72-57 edge in the all-time series with the Buckeyes, though Ohio State had a 37-24 advantage in games in Columbus.
- CJ Walker has now made 44 free throws in a row.