INDIANAPOLIS — Everything was rolling for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.
After piecing together impressive back-to-back victories against Purdue and Michigan in the Big Ten tournament, a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament was again a possibility for the Buckeyes.
Then they ran into Michigan State.
The Spartans avenged their Senior Day loss against OSU from a week ago and captured the Big Ten championship with a hard fought 68-64 victory.
But MSU senior forward Draymond Green, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, said the victory was about more than revenge.
“We never play for revenge at Michigan State,” Green said. “It’s never about getting someone back. They took the last game. They did screw up some things for us, but it’s more so looking ahead.”
It was Green’s 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining in the second half that sealed the game for MSU. It gave the Spartans a five-point lead and the Buckeyes were never able to recover.
“I know my team is going to come to me when we need a play down the stretch,” said Green, who shot 4-of-15 from the floor and finished with 12 points. “I would be less of a leader to not take that shot in a moment like that.”
OSU coach Thad Matta said Green’s three represented the big plays MSU made that the Buckeyes failed to capitalize on.
“Down the stretch there we had some what appeared to be good looks and you have to make those,” Matta said. “You look at Draymond Green hit that big three. (Sophomore forward Deshuan Thomas) was right there on the challenge and it goes in.”
It wasn’t only Green who made big plays for MSU, though. OSU had a seven-point lead with 14:06 left in the game when MSU senior guard Brandon Wood hit two consecutive 3-pointers as part of a 10-0 MSU run.
The Spartans took the lead and never relinquished it. Wood finished with a game-high 21 points.
“Things kind of bogged down for us on the offensive end,” said sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. “We stopped communicating, stopped getting back and they were able to make those and capitalize off of those and make shots at the end of the game.”
Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger’s 18 points led the Buckeyes in scoring, but OSU’s big man needed 19 shots to amass the total and was limited in the first half due to foul trouble.
Sullinger averaged 24 points per game during the tournament and was named to the All-Tournament team along with Thomas. Green said MSU’s defense on the Buckeyes around Sullinger was the difference.
“Jared’s going to score. They go to him every time. He’s gong to score,” Green said. “If you can contain Thomas and (senior guard William) Buford and the rest of those guys, we can win the game.”
The Spartan victory earned them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. OSU is a No. 2 seed in the East Region of the bracket and will face No. 15-seed Loyola Maryland in the first round.
The Buckeyes said they’ll learn from their loss against MSU and start new in the Big Dance, but for now the loss still hurts.
“Maybe tomorrow I’ll be excited about where we’ll go, but as of now it hurts to lose. I don’t like to lose,” Sullinger said. “We took a bump in the road. Luckily, we see tomorrow.”
And starting tomorrow, Buford said the team has a singular focus. Win.
“Really in your life nothing else matters for those three weeks that you want to try to get to the Final Four and win it,” Buford said. “If we stay together as a family and keep a certain mental toughness, I think we’ll be all right.”
In the NCAA Tournament, OSU drew a No. 2 seed in the East Region. The Buckeyes will play No. 15 Loyola Maryland on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Tipoff is set for about 9:45 p.m.
In the East Region, Syracuse earned the No. 1 seed. The East Region final will be played in Boston and the Final Four will be in New Orleans.