In Saturday’s regular-season finale, Michigan State delivered daggers all day long — both from the field, and to the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s hopes for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
At the expense of the Buckeyes, the Spartans (26-5, 13-5) put on a shooting clinic, overwhelming OSU 91-76 in East Lansing, Michigan, on Saturday. The win was the second time the Spartans got the best of the Buckeyes within a two-week span.
This time, the Buckeyes (19-12, 11-7) contained senior Bryn Forbes, the sharpshooting guard who nailed seven 3-pointers in their first meeting. The visiting team couldn’t stop a fellow senior guard, Denzel Valentine, however.
The Buckeyes, behind freshman guard JaQuan Lyle’s 14 first-half points, remained within striking distance throughout the first half despite several poor defensive lapses.
Exposing the Buckeyes’ weakside defense, Valentine, who leads the Big Ten in assists, got his forwards involved early. Before the half, Matt Costello had nine points, Gavin Schilling added eight and Marvin Clark Jr. contributed with six.
The Buckeyes controlled Michigan State’s spark plug early on, though the Spartans forgot to contain theirs.
Kam Williams, instantly hitting two three-pointers off the bench, helped keep the game within reach, as the Buckeyes trailed 47-37 at halftime.
In the second half, OSU never got within single digits despite forward Marc Loving’s strong 15-point half. The junior ended the game with a team-high 21 points, shooting 75 percent from the 3-point line.
The Buckeyes shot well (47.4 percent), especially from behind-the-arc (47.8 percent). However, the Spartans shot significantly better (66.7 and 50 percent, respectively).
With 14:40 left, the Spartans were ahead 58-47, when a missed free throw by Loving led to a transition three-pointer by Matt McQuaid, getting Tom Izzo’s team going.
Valentine, who assisted on McQuaid’s three, then hit a 3-pointer. Forbes, who ended the game with 14 points, followed that sequence up with a 3-pointer of his own. And just like that, the game became out of reach for the Buckeyes.
Valentine took over in the second half, ending the game with 27 points, 13 assists and four rebounds.
The Buckeyes, carried by Loving, Lyle and Williams, needed more from junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who had just six points, in a make-or-break game.
After the loss, the Buckeyes are slated to begin Big Ten tournament play Thursday in Indianapolis, though their seed is yet to be decided. In order to crash the Big Dance, the Buckeyes must string together a few marquee wins.