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Three Takeaways: Michigan State outlasts Ohio State, 74-66

They didn’t make it easy, but the Spartans notched a necessary win over the Buckeyes on Valentines Day.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It’s February, which means the chances for much needed wins are getting increasingly rare. MSU was able to make the most of one of those opportunities tonight as they beat Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes.

We’ll break down how they did it, in case you were out getting dinner or something equally romantic.


NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

1. Had to have it

At 15-10, with games against Wisconsin, Purdue and Maryland looming, Michigan State needed to win this game. It may not have been the prettiest thing, but they did just that.

Alvin Ellis started the game scorching hot from the field, hitting his first five three-pointers and finishing with a team-high 18 points. Miles Bridges was more aggressive in the second half after a sluggish first and ended up with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Nick Ward fared much better against Trevor Thompson in the rematch, notching 15 points and five rebounds and, finally, Cassius Winston continued his playmaking ways with nine assists.

For a team that has had mental lapses in big situations before, it was nice to see them get a win when they needed one most.

2. A game of runs

MSU is prone to runs, both for and against, and that dangerous trait showed up en force tonight.

Alvin Ellis’ incredible first half shooting putting them up big early in the first before OSU came all the way back to take the lead. Then it was MSU had a half-spanning 10-0 run, getting up by as many as 12, before letting the Buckeyes cut it back to one. The Spartans lead continued to teeter between double-and-single-digits the rest of the game before a Kyle Ahrens — of all people — put it basically out of reach with a corner three that stretched the lead back to 12 at the 3:21 mark.

While it’s nice to know your team can rip off big scoring runs, it’s concerning that they can give them up just as quickly. It’s the type of trait that can cost a better team winnable games and at this point Michigan State cannot afford any more of those.

3. Free Throw Turnaround?

Michigan State has been a terrible free throw shooting team this year. They convert only 63.4% — good for 324th in the nation — and as a team weren’t much better tonight (14-of-21).

Nick Ward, however, is doing what he can to lift that number up. In his last four games the big fella has gone 12-of-15 (80%) from the stripe, topped off by a 5-of-6 performance this evening. One of his biggest strengths has been getting to the line and if he is able to convert at even 70%, it will help MSU protect those leads that they tend to let slip away.