Michigan State Edges Ohio State To End the Regular Season

In the regular season finale for both teams, Ohio State had their 2 game winning streak stopped as Michigan State played ungracious hosts on Senior Day in East Lansing, edging visiting Ohio State 84-78 in East Lansing. The loss finished off a disappointing 5-15 conference finish for the Buckeyes and sends them to the conference tournament with a 13th place finish in the Big Ten. After taking a 4-2 lead in the opening minute, a 15-0 Spartan run proved to be doom for the visiting Buckeyes, creating a hole they could not quite climb out of. To their credit, they did not quit, getting as close as 3 in the waning minutes, but each time Ohio State closed the deficit, Michigan State had an answer and the veteran Spartans hot shooting, along with a little home cooking, finished off the win at home over the young Bucks. The Buckeyes finished shooting 44% from the floor which included 11 of 25 from three, while Michigan State hit 55%, including a red hot 12 of 20 from long. While statistically the game was pretty even overall, the Spartans utilized a 23-9 fastbreak advantage, beating Ohio State up the floor on a number of occasions for quick and easy looks, keying the Spartan victory. Brice Sensabaugh scored 21 to lead Ohio State, while Bruce Thornton added 20. Justice Sueing filled the stat sheet, scoring 10 to go along with 9 rebounds and 7 assists in his final regular season game as a Buckeye. Michigan State put 5 in doubles, led by a career high 23 by A.J. Hoggard to go along with 7 dimes. Joey Hauser addde 16, Tyson Walker 15 and 6 assists, Jaden Akins 13 and Malik Hall chipped in 10. 

Two Brice Sensabaugh free throws opened the scoring and after a Spartan backdoor cut leading to a dunk, Justice Sueing scored off the dribble drive off the window from the right block. Back came Michigan State, however, using a pair of triples to go on a 8-0 run forcing Ohio State to burn a timeout at the 16:22 mark, trailing the Spartans 10-4. The Spartans continued the run out of the timeout, increasing their lead to 13 as Ohio State had missed 8 of their first 9 shots, before a Felix Okpara jump hook stopped the 15-0 Spartan run and at the under 12 media timeout, Michigan State enjoyed a 17-6 lead. Sensabaugh got to the rim off the dribble drive and kicked to Bruce Thornton for three, but a bucket on the other end by the Spartans stopped the mini 5-0 Ohio State run, increasing their lead to 10. Ice Likekele drilled a three from the right corner to trim the lead to 7, but a 3 on the other end put the Spartans back up 10. Sueing drilled a 15 foot baseline jumper to trim the deficit but another three on the other end answered and at the under 8, Michigan State led 25-14. Out of the timeout, Sueing bagged a pair of freebies, the latter after a lane violation gave him another opportunity. After a defensive stop, Sueing lobbed to Okpara for a dunk trimming the lead to 7. Michigan State missed a pair of freebies and Ohio State made them pay as Sean McNeil hit a long three from the right point to cut the lead to 4. Michigan State answered with a three as the officials missed an offensive foul drawing the ire of Chris Holtmann. Another Spartan hoop increased the lead to 9 before Roddy Gayle went off the bounce and pulled up along the right baseline for a short jumper that fell to cut the Spartan lead to 7 and with 4 minutes to play in the half, Michigan State led 30-23. The lead jumped to 10 when another triple fell for the Spartans, but Thornton dropped in a three to answer. An old fashioned three point play on the other end re-upped the lead to 10 as a blocking foul was whistled where it looked like a player control foul could have been easily called. Sensabaugh buried a 16’ fade along the left baseline and after a Roddy Gayle block led to a transition opportunity where Thornton was fouled, Bruce buried both to cut the lead to 6. Michigan State hit a mid range J to increase the lead before Thornton got to the rim off the bounce for 2. Another three dropped on the other end before Sensabaugh scored with a rebound and put back. The Spartans quickly scored the other way and after a missed Sensabaugh three, the Spartans took a timeout with 15 seconds remaining. The Spartans failed in their opportunity to increase the lead the first half horn sounded with Michigan State holding a 43-34 halftime lead. A combination of a little home cooking and poor Buckeye shooting along with red hot Spartan shooting from long range and a 17-2 Spartan advantage in the fastbreak were the keys in the first half of basketball. After a real slow start, the Buckeyes rebounded to shoot 44% for the half, including 4 of 10 from beyond the arc. Michigan State hit 57% of their attempts including 8 of 14 from long range. Bruce Thornton led Ohio State with 10 first half points, while Michigan State got 10 from Malik Hall. 

The Spartans scored first to bump the lead to 11, but on back to back possessions Sueing found Sensabaugh for three to cut the lead to 5. The Spartans hit another triple to extend the lead, but Sueing got into the lane and scored with a leaner off the window. After a Spartan bucket, Gayle went left baseline off the bounce and scored off the glass and Chris Holtmann called timeout and with 17:15 left in the game, Michigan State’s lead was cut to 50-44. The Spartans upped the lead to 8 before Thornton used an Okpara screen and drilled a 12 foot pull up jumper to answer. Two Spartan free throws and a Buckeye turnover led to the under 16 with Michigan State on top 54-46. After a Spartan score out of the break, Sueing found Thornton at the top for three to trim the lead back to 7. A Spartan three after Ohio State missed a layup attempting to cut into the lead, upped the Spartan advantage to 10. After another Spartan bucket, the teams hit the benches for the under 12 with Michigan State now leading 61-49. Gene Brown faked a dribble handoff and went to the rim for a dunk to cut into the lead and after a Spartan turnover, McNeil drilled a straight on three to cut the lead to 7. Another Spartan three upped the lead back to 10, but a McNeil triple from the left wing cut the lead to 7 and the Buckeyes took a timeout and with 7:43 to play, Michigan State led 64-57. Yet another Spartan three bumped the lead back to 10, but a pair of Sensabaugh freebies trimmed the lead to 8 with 7 minutes to play. After a Sueing steal, Justice pitched to McNeil in transition for a lay up and the Buckeyes trailed by 6. After a pair of defensive stops, Thornton drilled a three from the top to cut the lead to 3 and Michigan State took a timeout with 5:28 to play and the Buckeyes closing the score to 67-64. A Spartan score stopped the Ohio State 7-0 run and after a pair of empty possessions by Ohio State, a terrible foul call on Likekele led to the under 4 media timeout and with 3:33 to play, Michigan State led 69-64. Two Spartan free throws increased the deficit, but Brown split a pair of free throws and an offensive rebound gave the Buckeyes another chance, but Sensabaugh missed the long three attempt. Michigan State scored on the other end, but Sensabaugh who had a shot blocked back into his hands, went right back up and scored and the Buckeyes took a timeout with 2:26 remaining and the Spartans leading 73-67. Another questionable foul call put the Spartans back at the stripe where one of two dropped and on the other end, Brown grabbed an offensive board and was fouled going back up for a score, Brown buried both to cut the deficit to 5 with just under 2 to play. Yet another ticky tack foul on the other end led to a pair of Spartan free throws and time was running out on Ohio State. Sueing scored mid paint, cutting the deficit back to 5, but the seas parted on the defensive end and the Spartans scored at the rim. Sensabaugh hit a tough fade away jumper from just below the stripe and Ohio State called timeout, trailing 78-73 with 50.2 seconds to play. The Spartans faced backcourt pressure and after they got it across, Ohio State played the foul game and Michigan State split the pair. Thornton got to the rim where it appeared his was fouled trying to get it up off the window, but of course in that building, there was no call and a foul put Michigan State back to the stripe, where this time, both fell. Thornton got to the rim for a score and a quick foul put the Spartans right back on the line. Once again, both freebies fell with 17.7 to play. Sensabaugh drilled a three from the left corner and Ohio State fouled again. With the Spartans clearing their bench allowing the seniors a final curtain call, one of the two free throws fell to cap the Spartan win. 

Well, the regular season is in the books.  It was not the season anticipated by most, but this group showed tremendous growth in the past couple weeks and despite it not turning into a win on this day, they showed grit and fight all the way to the end. There is certainly a lot to be excited about going forward into next year, but for now they start over a bit heading into the conference tournament in Chicago. It won’t be easy, but they way this team is playing, it’s not out of the question that they could win two or three ball games and possibly get to the weekend. I feel like a broken record, but all the credit in the world to the coaching staff and the heart of this team to play with tremendous effort all the way to the end.  They could have easily quit with nothing to play for, but they didn’t and despite not winning on this day, they left it on the court and gave the Spartans all they could handle. We’ll see what they can do next week to cap the season and hopefully they can string good play together and make a run. 

Ohio State will be on the court next in Chicago as the #13 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, playing at 6:30 PM Wednesday evening against either Penn State, Wisconsin or Nebraska. 

-Jason Harris

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