In a game that I couldn’t necessarily see, as I was being directly blocked by the backside of the basket, Ohio State got a much needed win against a great Michigan State basketball team. From the get-go, it was clear that the “good version” of the Buckeyes were out to play. They were hustling and calm, two things that Ohio State has seemed to lack in bad losses. Although Ohio State did not lead at the half, there was a feeling within me that the Buckeyes were going to win, and win they did.
With DeShaun Thomas shooting 4-16 from the floor, in a normal Ohio State basketball game, you would think that Ohio State would have been blown out of the gym. That was hardly the case. As Thomas struggled, Aaron Craft and Evan Ravenel shined. Ravenel finished the game with 10 points on 2-3 shooting and went 6-7 from the line to ice the game for the Buckeyes. A role player who usually does no more than play some interior defense, Ravenel rose to the occasion. In addition to his stellar offensive numbers, Rav grabbed 5 boards and blocked a huge shot that could have put things in much closer range for the Spartans.
Ravenel’s role was tremendous, but it was certainly upstaged by a certain Aaron Craft. We’ve all been waiting for Aaron Craft to “breakout” on the offensive side of the basketball. He is the best defender in the nation, and helps the Buckeyes in that way, but Ohio State is often looking for a player to score, and Craft has yet to be that guy this season. Sunday evening, he changed all of that. Going 7-12 from the floor and sticking to his game of driving layups, Craft was incredibly efficient in his bagging of the Spartans. He was patient and took the necessary chances to get to the hoop, converting on most of the opportunities he was given. When he wasn’t making his shots, he was fouled and shot 6-7 from the line, including quite a few made free throws in crunch time. If Craft continued his offensive struggles, Ohio State could have easily been beaten. Craft turned the entire game around with his second half performance and got it done for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State’s defense, which has been good for most of the season, stayed true to it’s form on Sunday. Ohio State caused the Spartans to commit 14 turnovers, thanks to their incessant hustle to the basketball. In addition, Michigan State only shot 18.2% from beyond the arc, making only two shots from downtown. That is the stat that may have been the turning point for Ohio State. Throughout this season, the Buckeyes have allowed opponents to shoot miraculously well from the three point line. It has often been the reason for their seven losses to ranked teams. Ohio State’s ability to quell the charge from the three point line got them a W against another top 5 team from the state of Michigan.
If there was one player causing major problems for Ohio State, it was forward Adreian Payne. Payne, at one point in the contest had more rebounds, by himself, than the entire Ohio State team. He finished with 12 points and 15 boards, dominating the lack of a post presence for Ohio State.
Other than that, however, Michigan State didn’t do anything very special. They hit a bunch of their shots in the first half, but couldn’t really get anything going in the second half of the game. They also fouled way too much in addition to succumbing to the pressure of the Ohio State defense and allowing turnovers. Overall, I think the Spartans might be just a tiny bit overrated. They don’t seem to have a big scorer to put the game away if need be.
All in all, Ohio State finally impressed on Sunday. It had been a while since Ohio State came out and really laid into a great opponent. They showed that they are ready for the big time come March, and while they most likely won’t beat Indiana on the road, they will certainly have a chance in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. They simply just have to continue that all around tenacity, and certain guys are going to have to step up on certain occasions. If it’s not Craft, it has to be Laquinton, Shannon, or even Lenzelle. The Buckeyes can certainly contend if they continue to play with this newfound fire and passion, and I believe that they will really start to hang with the big boys of college basketball come March.