The No. 13 seed Buckeyes played with nothing to lose, defeating No. 4 seed Michigan State 68-58 Friday in Chicago and becoming the lowest seed to make it to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Ohio State (16-18) shot a red hot 53 percent from 3-point range and got crucial minutes from multiple freshmen after missing fellow freshman forward Brice Sensabaugh with a leg injury.
Freshman guard Bruce Thornton led all players with 21 points and six assists, while freshman center Felix Okpara led with six rebounds.
The Buckeyes defense held the Spartans (19-12) to 38 percent shooting from the floor and 19 percent from 3-point range, stifling a Michigan State offense that entered leading the conference in shooting from distance and put up 84 points to end the regular season. Graduate forward Joey Hauser put up 15 points to lead the Spartans, while senior guard Tyson Walker led with two assists.
Akin to the Iowa game in the second round Thursday, the game began as a back-and-forth battle with neither team able to take control. At the 7:56 mark of the first half with the score 20-17 in Ohio State’s favor, the Buckeyes outscored the Spartans 13-8 to take a 33-24 lead into halftime.
The Buckeyes defense held the Spartans to 31 percent shooting in the first half and only allowed 1-of-9 3-point attempts to convert. The lack of consistent scoring ended up catching up with Michigan State beginning in the second half.
Thornton and fellow freshman guard Roddy Gayle Jr. took over for the Buckeyes in the second half, combining for 25 of Ohio State’s 35 points. Gayle scored 12 of his career-high 15 points in the second half.
Michigan State did not lead once in the second half, getting within two points after a layup from junior guard A.J. Hoggard to put the score at 36-34 with 16:35 left in the matchup. The suffocating Ohio State defense continued its dominance and held the Spartans under 60 points for only the third time this season.
Redshirt senior forward Justice Sueing added 15 points, and Ohio State dished out 15 team assists compared to Michigan State’s nine. Okpara also recorded five of the team’s eight blocks.
Ohio State next faces No. 1 seed Purdue Saturday in Chicago in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network beginning at 1 p.m.
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