While the Big Ten has officially started its conference play for over a week, it isn’t until a big name is taken down that we know it’s really here. Michigan State aren’t exactly unknown upstarts, but they’ve certainly shaken things up by beating the previously undefeated Ohio State 72-68.
It wasn’t easy. Ohio State outrebounded the Spartans 42-28, not to mention coming back from a 17-point deficit in the second half to force overtime. However, a great game from Keith Appling and Adreian Payne (coming off the bench) was enough to pull them through at home. Appling was slowed down by cramps in the final moments which made Michigan State look like they’re trying to pass the time instead of winning, but according to Tom Izzo, it was a necessity forced upon them.
This was the 7th straight win for the Spartans since losing to North Carolina, and marks their second win over a ranked team this season following beating Kentucky (number one in the nation back then) two months ago on their second game of the season.
While the Buckeyes were able to shut the paint down, turning the ball over 21 times wasn’t exactly helping them with what is usually an incredible defense. The Spartans scored 20 points in transition, almost three times what Ohio State (7.4 points per game) usually allow. Appling himself scored 8 points in transition, tied with the entire production of the Ohio State offense.
While the paint seemed to be closed for Michigan State for most of the game, something Izzo criticized his players for (and especially Branden Dawson) losing in the rebounding battle and pretty much falling asleep in their battles under the basket, Michigan State shot very well from outside the paint thanks to the many open court looks they got. The Spartans outscored Ohio State 43-18 from outside the paint, which included hitting 11 3-pointers, the most Ohio State have allowed this season. Ohio State shot only 4-of-18 from beyond the arc. They made up for it by getting to he line, but ended up shooting only 66.7% on free throws.
The key for Ohio State’s comeback, besides the leadership and energy of Aaron Craft, was working in the paint. They finished scoring 44 points if the possession involved a player getting the ball inside, averaging 1.19 points per possessions on those plays, compared with only 0.65 points per possession when no one got a hand on the ball inside the paint.
Of the Big Ten teams, only Wisconsin are now undefeated while Michigan State lead the conference with a perfect 3-0 record. This wasn’t a perfect display from a team that can do a lot better in terms of playing inside and defending the paint or rebounding, but their transition game and ability to shoot the ball was slightly surprising. For the Buckeyes, it comes down to taking care of the ball – it’s impossible to win road games in this conference when turning it over 21 times. They still came back and forced overtime which tells a lot about this team’s mental strength, but it takes more than that to make it in the best conference College Basketball has to offer.