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MSU Knocks Off Ohio State At Home, Remains Tied At Top Of Big Ten

Tom Izzo
WKAR
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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- At this point in the Big Ten title race, it’s all about keeping pace. Pace with Michigan. Pace with Purdue. For Michigan State, Sunday’s 62-44 win over Ohio State proved that the Spartans still have their legs.

With the first act of their title-deciding clashes with Michigan approaching in a week, MSU didn’t play a perfect game. Instead, they got what they needed from their role players when Cassius Winston wasn’t at his best and Nick Ward dealt with a hand injury that limited him to just 19 minutes.

“You get to this time of year and people are desperate for a lot of reasons,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “If you ask me, [OSU’s] desperation was a lot better than our desperation to compete for a championship.”

The Buckeyes came into Sunday’s contest searching for a major resume-booster, as coming into Sunday they sat eighth in the conference at 6-7. After Michigan’s home win on Saturday, the win for MSU ties them with the Wolverines at the top of the conference standings.

It was the two seniors that pushed Tom Izzo’s team over the finish line on Sunday, as Matt McQuaid led all scorers with 14 points and Kenny Goins added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Winston did not have his best shooting performance on Sunday, going just 3-of-15 from the field. He made all six of his free throw attempts to finish second for MSU in scoring with 13 points and 8 assists.

 

It was a cagey opening, as both teams were simply missing shots. The turnovers that have plagued MSU all year weren’t readily apparent in that first half, as the Spartans committed just four, ending with a total of 10.

Ohio State hit two of their first three 3-pointers to put them ahead midway through the first half. From there, the rest of the half was back and forth. An 8-0 MSU run was capped by a McQuaid 3-pointer that gave them their first lead since the opening minute. However, solid defense from the Buckeyes in the opening half limited MSU to shooting just 32.1 percent for the half.

Neither Winston nor Ward really ever got going in the opening 20 minutes, and it was Tillman that started the second half after Ward needed his left hand taped. Ward played just a minute before his hand bothered him again, and with Tillman at 3 fouls it was Thomas Kithier who had to fill in.

After missing his first three attempts, Goins made his first 3-pointer to start the second half before Winston split the defense with a bounce pass for the redshirt senior to dunk in transition. It helped that Ohio State missed their first six shots of the half at a time the Buckeyes could have kept momentum, but instead, head coach Chris Holtmann will regret his team’s inability to make shots at a critical time for his team.

A McQuaid 3-pointer from the right wing game MSU the lead back with 11:58, as Winston continued to struggle shooting from the field. Neither team was able to string baskets together, as there were just 21 combined points scored in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

With Ward’s hand continuing to affect him in conjunction with Winston’s offensive struggles, an unorthodox lineup pushed MSU into the lead in the late stages. McQuaid took ball-handling duties with Foster Loyer on the court and set up two nice assists to Goins and Kyle Ahrens to put MSU ahead with 7:03 left.

“Everyone’s gotta stay solid,” McQuaid said. “It’s getting to crunch time now.”

The same lineup remained in after a timeout and continued its run, scoring eight unanswered points in 1:25 to push the lead to eight. Ohio State was forced into plenty of bad shots thanks to the defense of McQuaid and Goins, as they shot just 4-for-21 in the second half, just 19 percent. MSU ended the game on a 20-2 run over the last 7:26.

Before MSU plays their high-profile encounter with the Wolverines on Sunday, they’ll play Rutgers at home on Wednesday, with tipoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Ohio State will head back home to play Northwestern on Wednesday as well.

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