A focused, sharp, and unselfish Michigan State Spartans built as much as a 16-point lead during the first half and as much as a 17-point lead in the second half over a lackadaisical until-they-were-about-to-get-embarrassed Buckeyes team. Though the Buckeyes made a late charge to cut the MSU lead to as few as 5 points with just over three minutes to play, the Spartans broke the Ohio State pressure for two dunks and two lay-ups, and also hit 7 of their 8 free throws down the stretch in a 76-67 Big Ten Tournament quarter-final win.
Shutting Down D'Angelo
Led by Tum Tum Nairn, Michigan State used a cumulative team-effort to take D'Angelo Russell out of the game as much as possible, and again were successful, as Russell only scored 19 points on 16 shots and turned the ball over 3 times.
Russell was obviously still stinging from having Denzel Valentine clap in his face at East Lansing, as Russell clapped in Tum Tum Nairn's face after opening up the scoring with a post-up jumper over the 5' 9" guard. From there, Russell only hit 6 more shots, his body language showed increasing frustration, his defense was lazy, and eventually Thad Matta took Russell out of the game with the Buckeyes on-the-ropes. It was during the time Russell was on the bench that Ohio State made their late run and cut what was once a Spartans 17-point lead down to only 5.
Spartan Unselfishness...It's Contagious!
The Spartans had assists on 23 of their 29 made field goals. Though this has been one of this team's strengths all season, extra passes and patience in this game took advantage of a sometimes sluggish and too often biting-on-the-first-move Buckeyes. Denzel Valentine dished out 7 assists, Branden Dawson dished out 7 assists too, and Tum Tum Nairn dished out 4 assists to lead the Spartans unselfish effort.
Here's the razor, Coach.
Thad Matta can shave as his sorry motivational ploy of not shaving until the Buckeyes lost again only lasted five days. An especially whiny Coach Matta was complaining at halftime that this was the most physical game he had coached in his eleven years in the Big Ten. Seriously Thad? Maybe for your team, but not for our Tom Izzo coached Spartans.
Every Day is Valentine's Day Against The Buckeyes
Denzel Valentine had another strong game against Ohio State scoring a game-high 23 points on an efficient 9 of 14 from the field, grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists. Valentine also picked up 3 steals and helped to keep D'Angelo Russell in check.
Dawson is Back
Branden Dawson returned after having to sit out the previous two games with concussion-like symptoms after taking a hit to the head from Purdue's Isaac Hass. Dawson played his best game since the Spartans played Illinois in late February in scoring 14 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, moving the ball for 7 assists, viciously blocked 3 shots and had no turnovers. Dawson had some misses in close, but played an excellent all-around game including defensively.
Trice heats up in the second half...
Travis Trice scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and, at right around the 10-minute mark of the second half, Trice made three shots in-a-row, (two three pointers and a lay-up), to help the Spartans extend their lead from 8 points to 14. Trice also hit 5 of his 7 free throws but did miss a one-and-one opportunity.
More MSU Key Contributions...
Gavin Schilling threw down a one-handed put0back dunk for the Spartans second basket but then picked up a foul on the following OSU possession and was called to the bench. Schilling threw down another one-handed slam in the second half but that Schilling was able to stay on the floor after picking up his third foul just three minutes into the second half while not picking up a fourth was perhaps Schilling's most valuable contribution.
Matt Costello scored 7 points in the first half, played 22 minutes on the game, and grabbed 3 rebounds and blocked 2 shots.
Tum Tum Nairn played 31 minutes with his main mission to bother D'Angelo Russell, and, for the second time this season, Nairn was successful in shutting down the one-and-done Russell. Nairn scored 2 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists but his defensive work on Russell was key to the Spartan win.
Marvin Clark Jr. not only played 14 minutes but was out on the court for the Spartans at the end of the game. Clark hit a three pointer, threw down a late dunk, and grabbed 6 rebounds while bearing down on defense. Alvin Ellis III also threw down an impressive dunk on the break, and, in his 8 minutes, grabbed a rebound, picked up a steal and had 2 blocked shots.
And Moving On...
With the win, Michigan State moves on to a Big Ten Tournament semi-final date with Maryland. Maryland, who won their semi-final game, 75-69, over a fighting-for-their-Big-Dance-lives Indiana has beaten the Spartans in both of their scheduled match-ups this season--a double-overtime win in East Lansing and then a 16-point win in College Park. Maryland's win over Indiana was their eighth in-a-row for the 27-5 on the season, currently # 8 ranked Terrapins.