On senior night, the Ohio State Buckeyes pulled out a huge 69-67 win over the Michigan State Spartans at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Buckeyes seniors Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. were honored and their teammates came up big for them. Lantern Sports catches a glimpse of the two seniors:
Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. Being honored on senior day at the Schottenstein Center pic.twitter.com/NcHijULiUp— Lantern Sports (@LanternSports) March 9, 2014
The Buckeyes’ LaQuinton Ross led the way with 22 points and Craft made all the little plays to push his team over the top in his last collegiate home game.
Michigan State’s Gary Harris had an opportunity to send the game into overtime, but his pull-up jumper was short as time expired.
The contest was nip and tuck throughout, but a plethora of late turnovers cost the Spartans a game they seemed to control. At one point in the second half, they were up by seven.
In this battle, that was essentially the equivalent of a 15-point lead in a standard game. As college hoops writer Matt Zemek explains, with these two teams' history of close contests, we shouldn't be surprised by another thriller:
Michigan State and Ohio State go great together, I must say. These teams do not play dull games.— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) March 9, 2014
How bad was the Spartans' execution down the stretch?
Michigan State turned the ball over on five of its last nine possessions. When asked about his frustration level after the game, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo sounded like a fan of the WWE’s Daniel Bryan.
Per Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio, Izzo said:
Izzo was asked if this is the most frustrated he's been after a game this year: "Yes, yes, yes. by far."— Zac Jackson (@FSOhioZJackson) March 9, 2014
Give the Buckeyes defense some credit for the Spartans’ inability to execute. Ohio State dug in defensively and forced their opponents into the telling errors.
Thanks to the late collapse, Michigan State is heading into the Big Ten tournament on a down note. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports gets specific:
Michigan State drops three of its final four Big Ten games for the first time since 2006.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 9, 2014
The Buckeyes almost let the game slip through their fingers themselves. With a chance to put it away in the final 1:30, the team missed five of its last eight free throws. On this day, sloppy ball-handling was worse than poor free-throw shooting.
Both teams are a lock for the NCAA's field of 64 no matter what happens in the conference tournament. But there is no question which squad is heading into the postseason with the momentum.
Here’s a closer look at the performances from a few key players.
LaQuinton Ross, A-
Aside from being one of the culprits at the free-throw line (3-of-6), Ross was solid. He scored his 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. He’s not a senior, but he played like one Sunday in a big-time conference matchup.
Aaron Craft, B+
He made several heady plays down the stretch and was relentless on defense—as usual. In his final collegiate game at home, Craft scored 12 points, dished seven assists, had four steals and gave his opponents the flux with his defensive activity.
Lenzelle Smith Jr., C
Smith Jr. didn’t have as good of a game as Craft, but he was active. He only made three of 10 shots from the field, but he led the team in rebounds with eight. He also had four assists and sank both of his free throws.
Adreian Payne, A-
Who is the better pro prospect?
Payne was awesome most of the game, but he seemed a bit fatigued late.
It seemed to lead to two of his five turnovers. Nevertheless, he led all scorers with 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and went 3-of-6 from three-point range. His versatility and growth are impressive.
Gary Harris, C
This wasn’t one of Harris’ best games.
He was a non-factor for much of the second half when the team needed a perimeter player to take the lead offensively. He did score 12 points, but he made just 3-of-9 from the field and wasn’t assertive.
The Big Ten tournament begins on March 13 and with the Spartans stumbling to close out the regular season, the team could use the four-day break. Tom Izzo is likely going to send his team through the paces because of its mental errors down the stretch.
The Buckeyes do everything with defense. Because of their ability to lock down, they have a chance against almost anyone. That said, finding offense against elite teams may be a problem. That could be their downfall in the Big Ten tourney as well as the Big Dance.
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