Winning on the road in the Big Ten conference isn’t easy. Winning on the road in East Lansing is even more difficult. The Buckeyes nearly did it on the back of Deshaun Thomas, who continued his march as the Big Ten’s best scorer with a 28 point masterpiece. However, Thomas didn’t get the shots in the final possessions for the Buckeyes, and Shannon Scott had an absolute brain cramp on the game’s final possession as the Buckeyes fell short against the Spartans 59-56 in a physical game of runs where a better overall team beat the best player.
This truly was a game of runs as the Buckeyes fell behind 13-2 and failed to score for nearly the first five minutes of the game. The Buckeyes uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times in that span and were quite characteristically missing shots. Then, a pair of threes fell from Thomas and Aaron Craft, and the Buckeyes joined the fray as they rattled off a 15-0 run of their own over the next seven minutes to quell the crowd.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo admitted that their goal was to contain Deshaun Thomas and make the other four players on the court with him beat them. Despite that attention, even with the notoriety of being the conference’s most prolific scorer, Thomas managed to turn in another astounding showcase. The junior forward posted 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting and 6-of-11 from three point range while not leaving the floor in 40 minutes. It wasn’t just a long distance shootout for DT though, he went inside and scored some tough buckets and grabbed a couple of easy ones in the transition game as well. It didn’t matter which player or players donning white were tasked with accounting for him, because Thomas was in the zone. He’s taken the very real burden of being his team’s entire halfcourt offense seriously, and he continues to answer that bell. Thomas was responsible for half of his team’s points and 10 of their 19 field goals.
Michigan State is a very physical team underneath though, and their duo of Adrien Payne and Derrick Nix provided a matchup problem in particular with starters Thomas and Amir Williams underneath. Combined with forward Branden Dawson’s 10 rebounds, these two helped MSU win the rebounding battle 34-25, grab 10 offensive rebounds, score 34 points in the paint, and pour in 12 second chance points. The offensive rebounds were in particular backbreaking as they seemed to come on 50-50 balls and generate key swings of momentum.
Ohio State didn’t get a whole lot of contributions other than Thomas on offense, but their bench did provide 13 points and outscore Michigan State’s by eight. Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross each added five points, while Evan Ravenel added 3 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes as his bigger frame was needed frequently to guard Nix. Ross played just 11 minutes, but he hit two pretty big shots in that stretch, and yes, I feel like I’ve spent a lifetime of articles pleading pointlessly to Thad Matta to play this guy with the most offensive potential on the bench more. The rest of the team did chip in four three pointers (Smith Jr. (twice), Ross, and Craft) to raise the Bucks’ total to ten for the game. Three pointers are the great equalizer when you’re on the road, and it was even more surprising as Ohio State’s far from the best in the conference in perimeter shooting. OSU’s 10-of-25 effort in that area was further enhanced by the Spartans’ 3-of-13 shooting from deep.
The Spartans took the lead for good with 41 seconds remaining as Keith Appling used a post feed which required help from Craft to kick back out, fake an outside shot, and get Craft just off balance enough to drive by him to the bucket. Appling had to work for his 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting, and he had just 3 assists to 4 turnovers, but he made plays late for his team, and their commitment to pumping the ball down low paid off for them in a big way.
As great as Deshaun Thomas was last night, he did not get the ball in a position to score for the team’s final three possessions. After a timeout, the Buckeyes made one pass and settled for an Aaron Craft corner three down two which misfired. That long miss fueled a fastbreak dunk for MSU to put them up four. On the next possession and in a hurry, Lenzelle Smith Jr. nailed a desperation three with 10.8 seconds left to cut the Spartan lead to just one. After a pair of makes at the line for Appling, the stage was set for the Buckeyes to try and force overtime.
Shannon Scott received the ball from inbounder Deshaun Thomas after heavy pressure on Aaron Craft. Thomas was trailing Scott up the floor, hoping to get a flip back to step into a game-tying three pointer. However, as Scott slowed and picked up his dribble, Payne slid into position to take away the Thomas pass, and Scott froze like a deer in the headlights. He fell to his left away from the bucket and threw up an unholy fadeaway three point heave that barely smacked the backboard before it landed in Spartan possession and the clock expired. The player with the best assist to turnover ratio in the conference, Scott, completely panicked with plenty of time on the clock as he apparently thought Michigan State was going to try and foul him to prevent a three-point shot.
With the loss, Matta falls to 8-9 against Izzo and Michigan State. That’s only his second losing record against a Big Ten school (he’s currently 9-10 in his career against Bo Ryan and Wisconsin). It shows how consistently physical Michigan State is and how incredibly difficult it is to go win in the Breslin Center. In fact, Ohio State came away from the venue with just one win between 1990-2005. They are now 5-15 in Breslin. At 3-2 in conference, the Bucks are still in the thick of things, and Ohio State gets its only real lull in the Big Ten schedule, beginning with a home game against Iowa on Tuesday night at The Schott. However, Iowa just knocked off previously undefeated Wisconsin in Iowa last night.
(Photo: Al Goldis/AP)