The story ended. Another has begun.
The Ohio State men’s basketball team defeated Michigan State 72-67 for its first win in conference play, ending the team’s worst start to conference play in the 13 season under coach Thad Matta.
Sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle carried the Buckeyes (11-7, 1-4) with 22 points. Senior forward Marc Loving added 12.
Freshman sensation Miles Bridges led Michigan State (12-7, 4-2) with 24 points.
Everything that had been detrimental to OSU’s chances to win a game suddenly disappeared on Sunday. The Buckeyes withstood runs from Michigan State — something OSU failed to do in three of its first four Big Ten matchups. OSU shot well from the outside, 10 for 23, and turned over the Spartans 17 times.
Matta said that what he watched on the court felt like OSU basketball.
“We needed it. There’s no question about that,” he said.
The team that battled 40 minutes against Michigan State on Sunday looked nothing like the team that suffered a 23-point embarrassment at Wisconsin on Thursday.
Matta said that when the team got off the plane in Columbus after that game, he told his players that they have to stand for something in life. He said that Sunday would tell the story of how the team responds to adversity following its worst loss of the season. In result, OSU matched each Spartan run with one of its own and executed when it had to.
“We talked about playing through adversity all week,” Loving said. “Our practices were really hard and in certain situations you got to play through adversity in practice. So just trying to get good reps of those to get them to carry over into the game and I felt like it helped.”
Made free throws and Tate’s rebound off freshman guard Joshua Langford’s missed 3 sealed the game for OSU, but there were plenty of opportunities before the final seconds where OSU could have folded.
Michigan State started the game hitting its first six shots and led 15-10 at the first media timeout. However, sophomore guard C.J. Jackson checked into the lineup for more defensive presence and the Buckeyes went on a 9-0 run to take a 16-15 lead. When the Spartans retook a 20-16 lead, OSU went on an 11-0 run.
Langford hit a 3 at the halftime buzzer to cut the OSU lead to 36-33, giving the Spartans the momentum heading into the break. OSU scored the first points of the second half not allowing Michigan State to start a run.
The Spartans finally captured the lead with 14:45 remaining in the second half on a 3-pointer by Kyle Ahrens, then Lyle and Loving both hit shots from deep to keep the score on OSU’s side.
Down two with 7:15 to go, Lyle connected on one of his five triples. OSU hit its next three shots, including a 3 from junior forward Jae’Sean Tate to give OSU its largest lead of the game, 66-58.
They could have folded, but they didn’t. For Matta, that was the most encouraging sign of a team coming off a 23-point loss.
“The thing I’m most proud of is things did not go as planned throughout the course of the game but we kept coming back and we kept defending,” Matta said. “I thought we had decent ball pressure, which is a good thing.”
For the first time all year, OSU had all five starters in double figures — an occurrence that OSU hopes isn’t an anomaly but becomes a consistent theme.
“We have no choice but to build off of it,” Lyle said. “These past four games, we were the lowest of the low that we could be. The way now is to go up.”
OSU goes on the road once again in conference play to Lincoln, Nebraska for a Wednesday night matchup with the Cornhuskers at 9 p.m.