How and Why: Ohio State Buckeyes vs Michigan State Spartans


The Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to East Lansing on Saturday afternoon to face off with conference rival Michigan State. It’s always a good game when these two teams hook up and it doesn’t matter the sport. The Buckeyes basketball team was trying to take care of business in East Lansing just like the football team did. No matter what happened, we figured this one was going to be a great game.

How It Happened

This game lived up to the hype. Ohio State got off to an early 18-13 lead thanks to 8 points from D’Angelo Russell in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Spartans rallied back to take the lead shortly. Michigan State ended the 1st half on a 20-6 run and took a 33-24 lead into the half.

The 2nd half was back and forth. There were times when Michigan State would begin to pull away, but the Buckeye’s wouldn’t let them. Ohio State finally tied the game back up with eight minutes to play after a steal from Russell that led to a monster dunk by Sam Thompson in transition.

It was back and forth from that point on. Michigan State was up by three with under two minutes to play when Amir Williams made a nice post move score to cut the deficit to 1. After a made basket from the Spartans the Buckeyes were back down three. Sam Thompson drained a clutch 3 to tie the score with 38 seconds to play, but the Spartans answered back with a three of their own. The Buckeyes turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass and lost the game 59-56.

Why It Happened

Tom Izzo out coached Thad Matta. I could spend all day talking about this. In a tightly contested basketball game like this coaching can often make the difference between winning and losing. Saturday afternoon was no different. Izzo pushed all the right buttons, while Matta made a few questionable decisions. For one Marc Loving only played five minutes. Also he chose to not use his final timeout when Thompson couldn’t get the ball in on the last play of the game. Those are both decisions that I’m sure he’d like to have back. Matta was highly questionable in his decisions and cost Ohio State the game against Michigan State.

Ohio State’s defense struggled to defend the perimeter. The Buckeyes chose to play Amir Williams more on Saturday afternoon and it cost them. Williams had a good game, but the Spartans used his lack of speed against him. They ran numerous high ball screens with Branden Dawson to get Williams out of the paint and defending shooters on the perimeter. As a result Michigan State shooters got wide open looks off those screens. The Spartans shot 7-15 behind the 3 point line. The game winning shot from Denzel Valentine came off of a high ball screen that left Williams to cover the shooter. I don’t blame Williams for this. There’s not many 7 footers in the world that can play good perimeter defense. I blame Matta for not adjusting to Izzo’s game plan. It was his job to find a way to defend those screens.

D’Angelo Russell had a bad day. For one of the first times this season he had an off night shooting. He finished with 10 points on 4-13 shooting. He started the game hot scoring eight points in the first 10 minutes, but he cooled off drastically. He didn’t score again until there were a few minutes left in the game. If he had a decent game, the Buckeyes win this one easily.

Free throws. The Buckeyes were 5-13 from the line on Saturday afternoon. They could’ve used a couple of those points. There’s no excuse for shooting 39% from the line. None whatsoever.

Shannon Scott played great. He realized that Russell didn’t have it on Saturday afternoon and took matters into his own hands. He ended with 15 points, 5 assists, and 5 boards. He kept the Buckeyes alive during difficult stretches. It’s great to see show showing senior leadership. That will prove to be valuable in the Big Ten Tournament.

Marc Loving barely played. This was Loving’s first game back from suspension. I could understand not playing him if it was his first game off injury, but Loving was still practicing with the team during the suspension. It wasn’t like he was just getting his basketball legs back under him. The Buckeyes’ offense needed him against Michigan State. I don’t understand why he only played 5 minutes. If this was Thad Matta’s way of disciplining him it doesn’t make sense. If Matta felt he should still be suspended then he shouldn’t have reinstated him. But if he’s not suspended he should be out there. There’s no reason not to have one of the best three-point shooters in the nation on the floor.


This wasn’t a must win for the Buckeyes, but it’s one we want to have back. Winning a game like this would’ve taken the Buckeyes off the bubble for good. That being said Ohio State should make the NCAA Tournament, but they can’t afford to lose to an inferior opponent again. They should be favored to win four out of their last five games. If they win those, they’ll be fine.

Ohio State will be back in action next Saturday in Ann Arbor. The Team Up North has had a disappointing season so far, but they’ve played everybody close as of late. I don’t expect it to be as lopsided a score as it was when they played on January 13th.