Friday, March 1, 2024

Michigan State basketball stunned in Big Ten tournament by Ohio State, 68-58

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CHICAGO — No one expected Michigan State basketball’s hot-shooting, high-scoring finish to the regular season to carry over. Particularly not Tom Izzo.

And it did evaporate. Just as Ohio State — in its third game in three days at United Center — made nearly every look it took.

And the Buckeyes kept it going. And going. And the Spartans are going home early.

Fueled by adrenaline and the need to win it all or watch a disappointing season come to an end, 13th-seeded Ohio State made 10 3-pointers while fourth-seed MSU struggled mightily to find any flow in a 68-58 loss Friday afternoon.

The Spartans (19-12), who scored 80 points in four straight games to close the regular season, shot just 3 of 16 from 3-point range. They struggled to move the ball, with just 11 assists, and now must wait to learn their NCAA tournament destination and seed on Sunday evening.

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The Buckeyes (16-18) — who won without star freshman Brice Sensabaugh (knee) — advance to play top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Purdue at noon Saturday at United Center (CBS). Bruce Thornton scored 21 points and Rodney Gayle Jr. had 15, while senior Justice Sueing scored 14.

OSU shot 52.6% from deep after making 7 of 15 3-pointers in the second half of MSU’s 84-78 home win Saturday in East Lansing to sweep the regular-season series. The Buckeyes went 21 for 34 from the arc in those last two games.

The Spartans held OSU to 6 of 29 on 3-point tries in their first meeting Feb. 12 in Columbus, Ohio, a 62-41 MSU victory.

Four Spartans reached double figures, led by Joey Hauser’s 15 points and six rebounds. A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins each scored 10 as MSU finished 38.2% overall from the field.

Return to futility

The Spartans carried their hot shooting from the previous month into the first five minutes Friday, opening 4 of 6 in the first 4:17 that included a 7-0 run. All of those buckets came after assists.

Then the ball stopped moving and their shots stopped falling.

MSU went 5 for 23 in the final 15-plus minutes. Hauser’s 3-pointer at 16:35 was the only one of the half, with the Spartans missing their final seven to go into half 1-for-9 as Hauser clanged one at the buzzer. The Spartans had just two assists after the sharing start.

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Meantime, the Buckeyes couldn’t miss. Sueing drilled a pair of 3-pointers and Sean McNeil another as OSU took control 15-6 spurt into the midpoint of the half. Then came another 13-4 run that pushed the Buckeyes lead to double digits, and Gayle’s 3-pointer with 2:29 made it 11 before Walker’s layup cut MSU’s halftime deficit to 33-24.

It was reminiscent of the Spartans’ first-half struggles Feb. 28 at Nebraska, where they shot 27.8 in the first half before rallying with a scorching second half. On Friday, MSU made just 31% overall to OSU’s 51.9% shooting. Hauser had seven points at half, four of them at the free-throw line, while Walker and Mady Sissoko each had six. Hoggard and Akins were a combined 1-for-9.

The Buckeyes hit 5 of 9 3-pointers in the opening half. Thornton and Sueing each had eight and combined for five of OSU’s nine assists at half.

Recovery not enough

Shots started falling for MSU after the half, first a Hauser jumper in the paint and then a Walker 3-pointer. The confidence appeared revived, with an Akins jumper and Hoggard driving layup pulling the Spartans back within 36-34 less than 4 ½ minutes into the final period.

But the Buckeyes answered that opening MSU salvo with a 10-2 counter run to push the lead back into double digits. And Ohio State hit big 3s when they needed them, with Gayle and Sueing each draining a pair from deep as the Buckeyes made 5 of 10 from behind the arc in the final period.

The Spartans made one final surge, getting within six with 4:54 to play on Hoggard’s driving layup. But Gayle’s 3-pointer with 3:14 to play was part of the knockout run that pushed it to 14 points in the final few minutes.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.

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