Courtesy of MCT
Regular season games don’t get much bigger than Ohio State’s matchup with Michigan State Sunday.
The contest lived up to its Big Ten title implications.
Senior guard William Buford made a long 2-pointer with one second left in the game to defeat the Spartans and give the Buckeyes a share of the Big Ten regular season championship.
OSU overcame a 15-point deficit behind Buford’s 25 points and the Buckeyes left East Lansing with a win. The Buckeyes have won at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title in five of the last seven years.
An OSU victory didn’t always seem likely, though.
From the opening tip, MSU came out pressuring the ball. The Spartans forced five Buckeye turnovers in the first six minutes as OSU struggled to get open shots. Offensively MSU pushed the ball up the court in transition and took quick control of the game. Tied at seven, MSU exploded on a 12-0 run to take a 19-7 lead with 13:21 remaining in the first half.
OSU’s offense appeared stagnant early, often settling for contested jump shots.
When the Buckeyes tried to feed it to sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, the MSU defense collapsed on the Buckeye big man. Sullinger made just one of his first eight shots from the floor and OSU connected on just three of its first 16 shots. But trailing, 32-19, with less than four minutes left in the first half, OSU got right back into it. Sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. threw down a dunk to cap off an 8-0 run and draw the Buckeyes within five points.
Spartan coach Tom Izzo called timeout and his team immediately responded.
Sophomore guard Keith Appling hit a 3-pointer out of the timeout and then completed a three-point play after driving past sophomore guard Aaron Craft and finishing at the rim.
MSU led, 38-29, heading into halftime.
OSU opened up the second half on a 6-0 run. Buford was fouled as he nailed a step-back jumper just inside the 3-point line. His free throw brought the Buckeyes within three points. Despite a Spartan run that saw the lead swell to nine, OSU continued to battle back and took their first lead since 18:09 in the first half when Thomas drove inside, banked in a layup and put the Buckeyes out front, 52-51.
Sullinger was called for his fourth foul as MSU regained the lead, 58-55, but a three-point play from Sullinger’s replacement, junior forward Evan Ravenel, knotted the score up at 58 with 7:10 left on the clock. Ravenel continued his strong play, scoring OSU’s next four points and then assisting Thomas on a layup to give OSU a 64-63 lead with 3:40 remaining.
Tied at 70 with less than a minute remaining, Ravenel forced a tough shot from Draymond Green. The MSU senior forward had 19 points and 12 rebounds on the night, but his jumper clanked off the iron and OSU gained possession.
With time winding down, Craft handed the ball off to Buford.
The Buckeyes’ only senior took two dribbles to his left and made a long jumper to give OSU a 72-70 lead with one second left on the clock.
Green’s desperation 3-pointer fell to the floor and OSU’s comeback was complete.
Three Buckeyes finished in double figures on the night. In addition to Buford’s 25, Sullinger and Thomas accounted for 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The OSU win means they share the Big Ten regular season title with the Spartans and Michigan. The Buckeyes finish the regular season with a 25-6 overall record and a 13-5 record in the conference.
OSU will be the three seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament. The team will play the winner of the game between sixth-seeded Purdue and 11th-seeded Nebraska Friday at 9 p.m.