EAST LANSING - After a rugged first half in which No. 11 Michigan State (21-5, 12-3 B1G) struggled shooting the ball (9-for-29), an energized second half helped the Spartans cruise past Ohio State (16-9, 6-8 B1G).
“Another day in the Big Ten,” Izzo unhappily said following the game. “For my guys to figure how you gotta win different ways, we did what we had to do.”
Junior forward Nick Ward led the first-half scoring for the Spartans with nine points, but a hand injury hampered him for the rest of the game, as he played less than four minutes the rest of the way.
“I didn’t even see it, I don’t know if he [Ward] fell or he got hit on a rebound,” Izzo said about his second-leading scorer. “It felt like he might’ve dislocated a finger or something, so I won’t know until they go through all the medical procedures what that is.”
With an off day from Cassius Winston, it was the senior Kenny Goins who sparked the Spartans’ stagnant offense in the second half. After a goose egg in the first, Goins poured in 10 second-half points, including a couple of timely 3-point baskets to help fuel a game-clinching 10-0 run.
“It’s another step in that level of confidence for me,” the former walk-on said of his performance on Sunday. “Every time you see a shot fall, you think the next one is going down and now with a couple games, I just feel more confident than I ever have here.”
But it wasn’t just the offense that elevated in the second half.
The Buckeyes shot 40 percent in the first half to keep a six-point lead at the break, but their offense dried up in the final 20 minutes. MSU put the defensive clamps on in the second half, holding Ohio State to an abysmal 4-of-21 clip, including finishing the final 7:26 on a 20-2 run.
“At half time, I think everybody made a commitment that we have to guard better,” Izzo said of his team’s two different halves. “The better we guarded, the better our break got.”
The Spartans had three players in double figures, one of which was senior guard Matt McQuaid, who had a team-high 14 points. McQuaid buried four triples and again was as advertised on the defensive end, holding Luther Muhammad, who’s been playing really well as of late, to just two points.
“He [McQuaid] guarded a guy that’s been on fire lately and did an unbelievable job,” Izzo said of his guard, who he believes is the best defender in the league. “And today he did it on the offensive end too.”
With the win, Michigan State has won its last three games and moves into a tie for first in the Big Ten with in-state rival Michigan. The Spartans will host a desperate Rutgers squad on Wednesday night, where tipoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on BTN.