CHICAGO — No one expected Michigan State basketball’s hot-shooting, high-scoring end to the regular season. Especially not Tom Izzo.
And it has evaporated. As did Ohio State — in its third game in three days at the United Center — it made nearly every appearance.
The Buckeyes followed suit. And going. And the Spartans go home early.
Fueled by adrenaline and needing to win it all or see a disappointing season come to an end, 13th-ranked Ohio State hit 10 3-pointers while fourth-ranked MSU struggled to find any run in a 68-58 loss Friday afternoon. Quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
“No matter how long you’re in it, it never ceases to surprise you,” said Izzo, who is now 34-19 in Big Ten competition. “I thought we practiced as well as we could for three days. I thought our guys were fresh. I thought we started the game well.
“But I give a lot of credit to Ohio State and Chris Holtman. They hit some unbelievable shots. We just couldn’t afford some.”
The Spartans (19-12), who scored 80 points in four straight games to end the regular season, shot just 3 of 16 from 3-point range. They struggled to move the ball with just 11 assists and now have to wait until Sunday evening to find out their NCAA tournament destination and seed.
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The Buckeyes (16-18) — without star freshman Bryce Senzabaugh (knee) — advance to play top-seeded and No. 3 Purdue on Saturday at noon at the United Center (CBS). They became the lowest seed to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Bruce Thornton had 21 points, Roddy Gayle Jr. had 15 points, and senior Judge Chuying had 14 points.
OSU shot 52.6% from deep to sweep the regular-season series after making 7 of 15 3-pointers in the second half of MSU’s 84-78 home win Saturday in East Lansing. The Buckeyes went 21 for 34 in those last two games.
The Spartans held OSU to 6 of 29 on 3-point attempts in a 62-41 MSU win in the first meeting on Feb. 12 in Columbus, Ohio.
“They were really good defensively at our spot. And to be honest with you, I don’t think I had a good plan against them,” Holtman said. “We beat them last year at our place. I don’t think I played a good offense against their defense. They get really stifled with how much spacing they have. So we made some adjustments in Game 2 and we took some shots….
“We’ve been playing the right way since that point. It’s probably the lowest point of the season, but it’s definitely there. I think we’re trusting the pass more and playing more together. In that end.”
Four Spartans reached double figures, led by Joey Houser’s 15 points and six rebounds. AJ Hogarth, Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins each scored 10 as MSU shot 38.2% overall.
Back to useless
The Spartans continued their hot shooting streak from the previous month Friday, starting 4 of 6 in the first 4:17 and including a 7-0 run. All those buckets came after assists.
Then the ball stopped moving and their shots stopped falling.
MSU went 5 for 23 in the final 15-plus minutes. Houser’s 3-pointer at 16:35 was the only half in the half and the Spartans missed their final seven, going 1-for-9 in the half with Houser hitting at the buzzer. The Spartans had just two assists after the split.
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Meanwhile, the Buckeyes couldn’t afford to miss. Chuing drilled a pair of 3-pointers and Sean McNeil another as OSU led 15-6 entering the half. Then came another 13-4 run that pushed the Buckeyes’ lead back to double digits, and Kyle’s 3-pointer made it 11 with 2:29 left before Walker’s layup cut MSU’s halftime deficit to 33-24.
“I’d say we’re giving up too many driving lanes, and we’re in tough situations because they were confident from the 3 today,” Akins said. “So when they’re driving you don’t know if you want to help or try to stop the ball.”
The Buckeyes hit 5 of 9 3-pointers in the opening half. Thornton and Chuying each scored eight points and combined for five of OSU’s nine assists.
“Yeah, they were in a rhythm,” Houser said. “We didn’t do a good job defending the 3-point line. But they’ve had two games here already and we knew that coming into the game.”
Feb. It was reminiscent of the Spartans’ first-half struggles at Nebraska on 28, where they scored 27.8 points in the first half. On Friday, MSU shot just 31% overall to OSU’s 51.9% shooting. Houser had seven points in the half, four of which came at the free-throw line, while Walker and Maddie Sissoko each had six. Hogarth and Akins combined to go 1-for-9.
Recovery is not enough
The shots started falling for MSU after the half, first with a Hauser jumper in the paint and then a Walker 3-pointer. Confidence reignited, an Akins jumper and a Hoggard driving layup pulled the Spartans to within 36-34 with 4 ½ minutes left in the final period.
MSU had a chance to tie it moments later, but freshman Jackson Koehler missed a layup. Thornton responded with a 3-pointer at the other end. Felix Okpara then swatted Malik Hall’s layup attempt, one of five blocks in the game for the OSU big man, and Chewing tripled it back to quickly push the Buckeyes’ lead to eight.
And Ohio State hit big 3s when they needed to, with Gayle and Chewing both draining a pair from deep as the Buckeyes made 5 of 10 from behind the arc in the final period to stretch their cushion to 13 with 7:56 remaining.
The Spartans made one final surge, getting within six with 4:54 to play on Hoggard’s driving layup. But Kaylin’s 3-pointer with 3:14 to play was part of a knockout run that pushed it to 14 points in the final few minutes.
“We let them make shots,” Walker said. “And that kind of took away from our energy. Things like that don’t happen, especially when our defense got us back into it.”
Contact Chris Solari: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @crissolari.
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