What a win for the Michigan State Spartans. Trailing for most of the game, but hanging around, MSU was able to make the plays late and pull out a 71-67 win over fourth-ranked Ohio State. This makes the second top-five win of the week for the Spartans, after defeating Illinois on Tuesday.
Aaron Henry once again led the way with 18 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals, and three blocks. Gabe Brown was the only other Spartan in double-figures with 11 points.
Down the stretch it was Henry and Joshua Langford making the plays for the Spartans on both ends of the floor, after they both sat for the end of the first half with foul trouble.
Once left for dead, Michigan State has now won three in a row, the last two against top-five opponents, and is creeping their way back toward the bubble.
The difference in this team since the second half of the game last Saturday against Indiana has really been something to behold. The mental toughness that has been a Michigan State program staple has returned, after being on hiatus for most of the year. This group has managed to lock it down mentally and come back against Indiana in Assembly Hall and against Ohio State at home.
Henry and Langford have become the floor leaders that were so badly needed. The rotations have tightened up. The team is playing tough and with confidence, and it is showing up.
You saw it tonight as well. Ohio State was able to stretch the lead out just a little bit a few different times in the second half, but the Spartans were able to claw back into it each and every time. When it came to crunch time, Henry took over and was aggressive and either got his shot, or got to the free throw line.
In the end it was enough to will MSU to victory.
For Ohio State, it was the E.J. Liddell show, especially in the second half. Liddell finished with 18 points on 10-of-12 shooting.
Duane Washington had 17 points, but was made just one of seven shots from three-point range.
The Buckeyes were playing without Kyle Young, who averages 8.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The senior suffered a concussion late in the game against Michigan and did not travel to East Lansing.
This game was a huge opportunity for Michigan State to enhance its tournament resume, and the Spartans took advantage with the win. According to ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi, the Spartans are now one of the last four teams out of the tournament on his list.
This means that MSU is officially back on bubble watch, which felt like an impossibility just a week ago. However, the Spartans need to keep things going if they want to end up on the right side of the bubble come Selection Sunday.
Up next is a road trip to Maryland to take on a red hot Terps team that has won four straight and will have had a full week off. The Spartans on the other hand, will be playing their fourth game in eight days. No time for excuses, though, as every game left is huge for MSU’s attempt to keep the tournament streak alive.
Meaningful basketball is still left on the schedule, and an MSU team is playing its best at the end of the season. Even in a down year, some things never change.