CHICAGO–For large stretches of the final game of the night in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament, it looked like Ohio State’s opponent in its semifinal game Saturday would be Iowa. The No. 6-seeded Hawkeyes took a 10-point lead into halftime against No. 3 seed Michigan State and held a 12-point lead 10 minutes into the second half.
Paced by junior forward Adreian Payne, who scored 18 points, MSU started to chip away at the deficit. The Spartans went on a 13-2 run with 10 minutes remaining in the contest and took a 50-49 lead on a 3-pointer by freshman guard Gary Harris with 4:11 left. Play was back-and-forth from there, but MSU held on to a 59-56 victory after an Iowa 3-pointer in the waning moments clanked off the rim.
Down the stretch, there were a few controversial calls that upset Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
Iowa junior forward Zach McCabe was called for a foul on MSU senior forward Derrick Nix when it appeared Nix had traveled before his shot. This led to McCaffery throwing his suit jacket onto the floor. With 30 seconds to play and Iowa down, 57-56, Hawkeye sophomore forward Aaron White was called for a foul on a Harris jumper, causing McCaffery to slam his fists onto the padding of the scorer’s table.
“This team deserved a better fate,” McCaffery said afterwards, indirectly but almost assuredly blaming the officials for the loss.
With the victory, MSU (25-7) will face OSU (24-7) Saturday at 4 p.m. at the United Center in Chicago.
Let’s take a closer look at OSU’s upcoming opponent:
Record: 25-7, 14-5 Big Ten
Against OSU in the regular season: 1-1
Jan. 19: MSU 59, OSU 56 in East Lansing, Mich.
The Buckeyes lost a heartbreaker to the Spartans in the first matchup of the season. MSU scored the first 10 points of the game and took a 30-26 lead into halftime. OSU, trailing by three points with seven seconds remaining, settled for an errant 3-pointer by sophomore guard Shannon Scott that clanked off the backboard with three seconds left. The shot confused many, as it came with time left on the clock and junior forward Deshaun Thomas open on the wing.
Feb. 24: OSU 68, MSU 60 in Columbus
OSU got its revenge on the then-No. 4 ranked Spartans, led by a rarely-seen offensive-minded Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes’ junior guard–known for his defense–scored a game-high 21 points, more than he had in the previous three games combined. OSU trailed, 31-25, at halftime, but led by Craft, the Buckeyes outscored MSU by 14 in the second period.
Matchup to watch: Payne vs. OSU’s big men
Payne dominated OSU in the Spartans’ loss in Columbus. The Ohio-native had 12 points, 15 rebounds, a block and a steal, having his way with every forward Thad Matta put on him. With OSU’s strength on defense being its guards, the Buckeyes can expect to bottle up–to an extent–MSU junior point guard Keith Appling and Harris. If sophomore center Amir Williams or redshirt senior forward Evan Ravenel can contain Payne, OSU could fare well Saturday.
No. 1 seed Indiana vs. No. 4 seed Wisconsin, 1:40 p.m.
No. 2 seed OSU vs. No. 3 seed MSU, 25 minutes following IU-UW