Posted January 08, 2014

Michigan State holds strong despite injuries, topples Ohio State in wild game

Big Ten, Michigan State Spartans, Ohio State Buckeyes
Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo got heated in the first half after a series of calls against his Spartans. (Al Goldis/AP)

The first time Tom Izzo spoke to ESPN’s Allison Williams during the telecast of Tuesday’s game between his fifth-ranked Spartans and No. 3 Ohio State, he was something well short of pleased. Still smarting from a no-call on what he thought was a shove just before the first-half buzzer, the future Hall of Famer shot death stares either at Williams or through her (and presumably toward his zebra antagonists) during his on-air halftime interview, which he punctuated with a departing eye roll.

izzo

By the time they met again for a post-game follow-up — some 90 real-time minutes, a 17-point collapse, a ping-ponging overtime period, and a high-profile conference win later — he looked understandably exhausted as he tried to wrestle the accompanying array of emotions into comprehension. And then, briefly, he settled on a cliched truth. “A win’s a win,” he said. He smiled.

If the first marquee matchup of this year’s Big Ten slate is at all a harbinger for the rest of it, there will be plenty of emotional rollercoasters to endure for parties both involved and uninvolved. The Spartans’ 72-68 overtime win on Tuesday, which knocked Ohio State from the ever-shrinking list of unbeatens, was all an observer would expect from a clash between the league’s elites – a regular-season slobberknocker that, right as the sun sets on one major collegiate sport, served as an easy showcase for what can be so great about another.

The news entering the much-anticipated game had been increasingly ominous for Michigan State. Hosting its second top-five clash in as many years (after Indiana’s visit last February), the school had to request that its students refrain from their usual pre-game campouts in the zero-degree weather, compromising by admitting them into the Breslin Center an hour earlier than usual. Forty-five minutes before tipoff, Izzo got word that forward Adreian Payne, the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder, would not be able to start and might not play at all due to the plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Reserve guard Travis Trice would also miss the game due to an illness.

These were merely the latest ailments for a team that had just gotten starting two-guard Gary Harris back from a sprained ankle and seen point guard Keith Appling play through a sprained wrist and reserve forward Matt Costello battle mononucleosis.

But thanks to the Buckeyes’ first-half offensive malaise (accentuated by a Spartan defense that dragged many Ohio State possessions to the final seconds) and several key buckets from Harris, Michigan State was able to carve out a seven-point halftime lead in that Big-Ten-rock-fight sort of way. And in the second half, with the Izzone at full throttle, Payne made it easy to forget how hobbled and limited he had looked before halftime with a pair of explosive put-back dunks in a 70-second span. Two minutes later he drained a three that put the Spartans up by 15 with 8:32 remaining.

“He was in tears and told me he couldn’t go,” Izzo said afterward of Payne’s pre-game status, adding that it was ultimately Payne that decided he could play. “I said fine, just come out here and see how it goes. I think I’m going to hurt the other ankle tomorrow to be honest, because he was pretty active with all the dunks and whatnot.”

Yet it was right around the peak of Michigan State’s dominance that Ohio State began sowing the seeds of its comeback.

The Buckeyes started by applying their defense in the backcourt, forcing the Spartans to begin everything that much farther from the basket. Then Michigan State went cold — after an Appling bucket put them up by 17 just before the eight-minute mark, the Spartans made just one more field goal in regulation. It was then that the Buckeyes suddenly found their offense. Three straight Sam Thompson scores cut the lead to single digits with just under four to play, and his alley-oop dunk from Craft a minute later cut the deficit to four. Craft, the team’s dogged and divisive star, came up with a three-point play on a reverse layup a minute later, then — deep breath — after Shannon Scott drew an offensive foul on Appling, Craft preserved the Buckeyes’ possession in a mad scramble for a loose ball by corralling it and calling timeout while on the floor. Off the ensuing inbound pass on the baseline, he threw a pass off Payne’s buttocks to himself for a score that cut the Spartans’ lead to 57-56.

Aaron Craft

Aaron Craft’s diving save of a loose ball was a key play in Ohio State’s comeback. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Payne was fouled with 42 seconds on the clock, but made just one of his two free throws. On the other end, Craft tried for his third straight bucket, driving to the hoop as he had so easily in the closing minutes, but missed the layup only for Amir Williams to put back the rebound and tie the score. With two timeouts in his pocket and more than 20 seconds left, Izzo signaled a play to Appling from the sideline, only for Scott to jump into the passing lane and break away with the ball as the clock wound down. With Appling breathing down his neck, Scott missed the layup, which had just barely cleared the cylinder when Payne tipped it away from a leaping Thompson — who was primed for a winning put-back — as time expired.

In the extra period, the Spartans found some of their offensive groove again. Kenny Kaminski, a 6-8 redshirt freshman who entered Tuesday with 29 points in seven games, hit his third trey of the game to snap the Spartans’ 5:40 drought from the field. Payne followed with another — the final three of his 18 points on the night — to give his team a 65-61 lead with 2:20 to play. After a Harris free throw, Craft drove in for the Buckeyes’ first field goal of overtime. Appling’s attempt at a response was damaging in two ways: he rushed a shot (and missed) with more than 10 seconds still on the shot clock, and as he got back on defense he reached toward his leg due to what Izzo would later describe as cramps. Craft soon found Thompson, his co-conspirator in the second-half surge and Ohio State’s leading scorer with 18, on the wing for a three to tie the game.

“Keith just couldn’t go,” Izzo said. “Both his legs were cramped up; they were working on them every minute. He couldn’t get open to save his life. You want to write a story? Write it on his character and his heart. Because he sucked it up and so did Payne.”

Appling – who scored a game-high 20 – sucked it up enough to win the game on the Spartans’ next possession. With the shot click winding down and less than 30 seconds remaining in overtime, he coolly rose and fired above Scott’s extended hand to rattle in a go-ahead three from straightaway.

That basket would, finally, prove to be the decisive one. After a series of free throws, Buckeyes freshman Marc Loving missed a hopeful heave, Appling brought in the rebound and was fouled, and he made one of two shots to arrive at the final score. The horn then sounded before Thompson could unleash a futile full-court heave off Appling’s miss of the second, and the Spartans escaped with a victory.

After Appling’s game-sealing rebound, the student section had erupted into a chant of “YES! YES! YES!” It was a celebration borrowed from the Spartans’ Rose Bowl-winning football team — which led a particularly rousing version of the cheer at halftime — who had in turn borrowed it from WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan. Given how often they’d employed the chant throughout the game, it’s likely the fans would have done so again regardless of how Michigan State arrived at victory. But in the heat of the final moments, with how wildly the game had unfolded, it seemed a celebration hardened by relief — as if acknowledging that this win felt like a bit more than just a win.

19 comments
chaydo007
chaydo007

glad Sparty ruined two undefeated records. 

chaydo007
chaydo007

hey buckeyes in here stop crying and oh yeah good game against Clemson and Sparty! 

Zach
Zach

As far as "good" losses go, this was textbook for the Buckeyes. In a hostile environment? Check. Holding your own against a talented, veteran team shooting lights-out from deep? Check. Making enough mistakes that you kick yourself and listen to the coaching staff make corrections for the future? Check.


I'm guessing that the games in which the Buckeyes commit 20+ turnovers and the games in which MSU shoots 58% from behind the 3-point line are each going to be quite rare...and they happened to occur on the same night. Frankly, I'm very impressed that tOSU hung that closely with Sparty last night!

IcemanDallas
IcemanDallas

Lot of sore losers around here. Take your spanking and go back to that sewer in Columbus. I've never seen a player get away with more hacking and grabbing that Craft!

ElvisHitler
ElvisHitler

Izzo is a trash human being and he preaches thug basketball full of cheap shots and intentional elbows. Lucky to get the W but look for a short run in the tourney this year, way overrated.

MichaelBauer
MichaelBauer

Izzo had a lot of nerve barking about that no call, when Craft had been knocked out of bounds the same way three times previously, all leading to turnovers, with the same no call from the refs. Great game, and I love Izzo, but c'mon man!

MarcoZ
MarcoZ

Shannon Scott's inconsistent play for the Bucks is maddening.  He commits lots of turnovers but makes great defensive plays.  He made a great steal at the end of regulation but missed the contested layup.  He should have tried to dunk the ball and draw a foul.  LaQuinton Ross seemed indifferent most of the game and was a non factor.  Without consistent scoring from Ross the Bucks cannot compete for the conference title.

C.E.Daly
C.E.Daly

@Zach I love Big 10 basketball when it is highly contested like that.  Too bad the Bucks lost but great game!

Doug1
Doug1

@IcemanDallasNo one from East Lansing has the right to call anything a sewer, well except maybe Detroit.

Longsack the Clown
Longsack the Clown

@IcemanDallas SPANKING! What the hell are you talking about! If a 4 point loss on the road is a spanking, then you need to watch some basketball. What a DOLT! The Buckeyes didn't get beat, they beat themselves by turnover after stupid turnover. Craft hacking and grabbing, you are a DOLT! Watch some basketball before you make idiotic comments.

chaydo007
chaydo007

@ElvisHitler You an idiot.... but you know this. Thats why hes considered one of the best right. retard!

MichaelBauer
MichaelBauer

@IcemanDallas @MichaelBauer It's spelled "Whaaaa", but I guess you wouldn't know that. ;-)


Besides, I wasn't whining at all. I just thought it was funny that Izzo was, when clearly the refs had allowed the same thing three times before with no call.


Read my actual words and work on that reading comprehension. If you're from Dallas, that explains it, but if your from East Lansing, you have no excuse.

Longsack the Clown
Longsack the Clown

@IcemanDallas @Longsack the Clown

Iceman, it should say something to a team that had to go to overtime to win a game by only four points, against a team that committed 21 turnovers. That in itself should tell MSU they need to take a look at that. Without all those turnovers MSU most likely losses that game!

Zach
Zach

@IcemanDallas Yeah, tOSU's non-conference schedules the last few years have really kept us from success in the postseason: 4 consecutive Sweet Sixteens (or better), and 3 out of 4 B1G Tournament wins. I think what Matta does is working, don't you?