The true definition of a team in the game of basketball is being able to work around your best play maker having an uncharacteristic game. When Jared Sullinger couldn’t find his rhythm on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes responded with a valiant team effort against the Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday.
After shooting 64% from the field in the first half and getting 21 points off the bench from 9-13 shooting, the Spartans looked like they were going to make this must win game a contest. But when it was all said and done, the struggling and inconsistent squad from East Lansing dropped their sixth game in the last eight times on the court. Kalin Lucas scored 14 points, while Draymond Green added ten points and six rebounds. Michigan State won the rebound battle, shot the ball overwhelmingly better, and seemed to control most of the court.
The offense seemed more fluid than it did all season. Then the Buckeyes took over the second half of play with timely shots and reckless abandon.
William Buford hit a couple key shots, leading all scorers with 23 points, including 3-4 from three point range. Overall, Ohio State fired seventeen threes. A game-plan formed once it was clear that Jared Sullinger wouldn’t find a groove in the game. The freshman center scored just 11 points and only pulled down one defensive rebound. After two quick fouls in the second half, The Buckeyes relied on the play of Dallas Lauderdale and freshman Aaron Craft.
Craft might not of shown up strong on the stat sheet, but his defensive prowess was a big part in tonight’s win. The Buckeyes forced nineteen turnovers, with nine coming from the guard rotation of Keith Appling, Kalin Lucas, Mike Debler, and Austin Thornton. One of which included a pick of the pocket loose ball scramble and the only points scored by Craft that weren’t at the free throw line.
The Buckeyes were up 45-44 when they finally began to pull away from the Spartans mid-way through the second. William Buford went coast-to-coast on a Lucas turnover, which was followed up by another forced Lucas turnover in the back-court and two free throws. The Spartans would respond with a put-back bucket, and then Jon Diebler dropped a three point dagger to give the Ohio State Buckeyes a 52-46 lead with just 12 minutes remaining. The Spartans would get it back to within two when William Buford hit a big three and added two more to put the game away.
The Spartans fall to under .500 in Big Ten play and 14-11 on the season. They will host Illinois this weekend in a very important game for their March future.
The Buckeyes extend their home winning streak to 18 straight games. The Buckeyes will take on the Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday at 1PM ET.
(For more analysis on the Buckeyes’ performance against the Spartans, follow Scarlet and Game on Twitter.)