Ohio State Upsets Michigan State, Advances to Big Ten Semis

Ohio State’s magical late season run continues, dropping Michigan State 68-58 to win for the 5th time in 6 tries becoming the first double-digit seed in Big Ten Tournament history to advance to the weekend. Already playing without Zed Key, shortly before the game the Buckeyes found out they would have to play without leading scorer Brice Sensabaugh due to knee soreness and it didn’t matter. Behind Bruce Thornton, Justice Sueing and Roddy Gayle, Ohio State built a solid halftime lead and fought off a Spartan rally to move to the Big Ten quarterfinals to face Purdue tomorrow. The Spartans head home and await their NCAA fate to be revealed on Sunday.  It was a collective defensive effort, winning almost every 50/50 battle, holding the Spartans to 38% shooting and just 3 of 16 from long range. The Buckeyes shot 45% overall, while hitting 10 of 19 from beyond the arc and led for 33:24 of the game and now get a chance to play for a shot to play for a Big Ten title. Bruce Thornton led Ohio State with 21 points and 6 assists, while Roddy Gayle added a career high 15 and Justice Sueing added 14. Felix Okpara also had a tremendous floor game, scoring 8, pulled down 8 rebounds and blocked 5 shots, altering several others. Michigan State was led by Joey Hauser’s 10, while Tyson Walker, Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard added 10 each. 

Ohio State’s Justice Sueing opened the scoring with a short fade mid paint. The Spartans answered in a big way, scoring the next 7 before Sueing buried a triple from the left wing. After another Spartan jumper fell, Bruce Thornton chased down a rebound of his own miss and proceeded to drive into the paint from the left and dropped in a floater and at the first media timeout, Michigan State was ahead 9-7. After a defensive stop, Sueing hit another triple, this time from the left wing and the Buckeyes jumped back in front. Two Spartan free throws put Michigan State back in front but a running lay up by Thornton gave the lead back to the Buckeyes. Ohio State extended the lead when Sean McNeil drilled a three from the top and after Michigan State scored at the rim and at the under 12 media timeout was taken with Ohio State on top 15-13. Felix Okpara dropped in a jump hook from the right baseline before a Sparty runner off the glass fell, trimming the Buckeye lead back to 2. Tanner Holden buried a triple from the right corner to extend the lead, but a technical foul was immediately called after Holden acknowledged the Spartan bench. Both technical free throws fell to cut the lead to 3. After a Spartan offensive foul turned it over to the Buckeyes, Thornton hit a runner in the lane. After another Spartan turnover gave the ball back to Ohio State, a foul sent the team to the benches for the under 8 media timeout and with 7:10 to play in the first half, the Buckeyes led 22-17. The Buckeyes extended the lead to 7 when Sueing fed Okpara along the left baseline for a dunk, but a Spartan jumper cut into the lead.  Thornton answered with a short jumper and the Buckeyes extended the lead when McNeil hit a pull up 15 foot jumper forcing Michigan State to call timeout with 3:55 left in the first half and the Buckeyes leading 28-19. After the Spartans split a pair of free throws and an alley oop dunk by Okpara put the Buckeyes up 10. The Spartans trimmed the lead with a dunk on the other end but Roddy Gayle buried a three from the left wing to answer. A Spartan bucket cut the lead to 9 and Chris Holtmann took a timeout with 1:34 remaining in the first half and Ohio State leading 33-24. There would be no more scoring and the half ended with Ohio State holding the 33-24 halftime lead. Ohio State shot 52% from the floor, including 5 of 9 from long range and did an outstanding job not allowing Michigan State to get out in transition, forcing them to play a half court game. In doing so, the lockdown half court defense forced the Spartans to shoot just 31% and just 1 of 9 from three. The Buckeyes were led by 8 apiece by Bruce Thornton and Justice Sueing, while the Spartans leading scorer at the break was Joey Hauser with 7. 

Michigan State opened the second half with five straight before Thornton scored at the rim as he was fouled and knocked in the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three point play. Back came the Spartans and in a flash the Buckeye lead was cut to 36-34 as Michigan State was perfect from the floor to open the half, prompting Chris Holtmann to call timeout with 16:25 left in the game. A Thornton triple from the left point broke the Spartan momentum and on the next possession, Sueing drilled a three from the right wing and after a Spartan offensive foul, the under 16 media timeout hit with 14:36 to play and Ohio State leading 42-34. A Spartan bucket broke the 6-0 Buckeye run, but a pair of Ice Likekele free throws answered. After a Sueing block in transition, McNeil grabbed the loose ball and flipped it upcourt where Thornton grabbed it and scored off the window. A foul on the other end stopped the clock and the under 12 media timeout sent the teams to their respective benches with Ohio State in front 46-36. The Spartans split a pair of free throws to cut into the lead, and after Thornton missed a pair, a Spartan jumper cut the lead to 7. A Gayle runner on the right baseline dropped to extend the lead and on the next possession, Gayle drilled a straight on three forcing Michigan State to call timeout with 8:02 to play and the Buckeyes leading 51-39. A quick Spartan bucket out of the timeout cut into the lead, but Sueing dropped in a right corner triple to answer. A pair of Spartan free throws cut the lead to 11 and after a Buckeye miss, a Spartan triple cut the lead to 8 with under 6 to play. Thornton found Okpara for a dunk to stem the tide, but a pair of Spartan free throws got the Spartans back within 8. The lead got sliced to 6 when the Spartans scored at the rim and Ohio State took a timeout with 4:44 to play and the Buckeyes leading 56-50. A pair of Gayle free throws extended the lead and at the final media timeout, with 3:57 to play, the Buckeyes led 58-50. Gayle extended the Buckeye lead with another three from the right wing, but a quick hitter by the Spartans cut the lead to 11 with under 3 to play. A Gayle runner off the glass extended the Buckeye lead and two Spartan free throws cut the Buckeye lead to 9 with 1:53 to play. Thornton went back to the stripe on the other end and he buried the pair and time was running out on the Spartans. An Okpara block keyed a run out on the other end where Thornton scored to all but seal it. Thornton split a pair of free throws and Ohio State cleared their bench. The Spartans scored two more buckets to complete the scoring and the Buckeyes continued their amazing run. 

Just an unbelievable run by this basketball team. The talent was always there. It just took awhile for the youth to grow up and in the last few weeks, they certainly have. Roddy Gayle has always been a defensive stopper, and now he is finding his offense, while defensively Felix Okpara is a game changer in the middle, and what can you say about Bruce Thornton. That kid is a game and just a true basketball player and he is blossoming into one of the best point guards in the conference. They were never as bad as their record indicated. They just needed to learn how to win and gain the confidence that comes from winning and in the last few weeks, they’ve done just that. The challenge will be great tomorrow, but all you can ask for is a shot. 

The Buckeyes advance to the semifinals tomorrow, taking on Purdue at 1 PM EDT and airing on CBS.

-Jason Harris

Leave a Reply