Ohio State has five players on its roster that played in the Buckeyes’ 80-64 win against No. 1 Michigan State last season, including two starters: then-junior guard C.J. Jackson and then-freshman forward Kaleb Wesson.
At that point last season, Ohio State had already played two ranked opponents, losing to both Gonzaga and North Carolina in non-conference play. But the Spartans game proved to be a launching point for the 2017-18 season, igniting the Buckeyes to a second-place finish in the Big Ten.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann had that opportunity again Saturday when No. 14 Ohio State played No. 8 Michigan State, its first ranked opponent of the season.
But the Buckeyes (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten) failed to take advantage, falling to the Spartans (13-2, 4-0 Big Ten) 86-77 for their second loss of the season.
Trailing 31-28 late in the first half, Kaleb Wesson and junior forward Andre Wesson hit four free throws, giving Ohio State the lead, its third of the game.
With 1:49 left in the first half, Kaleb Wesson stepped in front of a pass intended for Michigan State senior guard Matt McQuaid, knocking the ball away from him, but nearly out of bounds. The sophomore forward hit the ball back in bounds and into the hands of Jackson, who nearly hit it out of bounds. Jackson lobbed the ball up to Andre Wesson, who in one smooth motion recorded a bounce pass back to the senior guard.
Retaining possession, Andre Wesson held the ball, recorded a no-look bounce pass to freshman guard Duane Washington, who hit a corner 3, giving the Buckeyes a 10-0 run and a seven-point lead at halftime.
But the 10-0 run in the first half was not enough for Ohio State, as the Spartans scored 50 points in the second half, shooting 76.5 percent from the field and giving the Buckeyes their second loss of the season.
“They are a good offensive team,” Holtmann said. “I think it was a combination of transition, half court, we put them on the line too much, we made some really not the most intelligent plays putting them on the line at times. And then they converted on the line and were transition.”
After scoring eight points against the Spartans last season, Kaleb Wesson led the Buckeyes with 25 points, recording eight rebounds in 28 minutes.
Jackson was a key factor for Ohio State in the first half, scoring 10 points with six rebounds and five assists. However, in 10 minutes of play in the second half, the senior guard did close to nothing, recording zero points on zero attempts.
Holtmann said the senior guard was very active in the first half and was playing well. However, cramping limited Jackson to 10 minutes in the second half of play.
Even though he tried to go back in for a bit in the second half, the senior guard said it was the worst cramping he had gone through this season.
“If you can’t move and the guys were saying on the bench that he wasn’t himself, at that point we have to try and go with someone else,” Holtmann said.
With having ot limit Jackson’s playing time due to cramping and Kaleb Wesson recording five fouls, Holtmann said he did not have the veteran leadership that he wanted to at the end of the game, saying, if he were to coach the end of the game again, he would not have used as young of a lineup.
But the Ohio State head coach hopes the playing time by the young guys can help the team as a whole in the future.
“Without taking anything away from Michigan State, I think it does hurt us. I think, perhaps, playing some of those types of games with young guys on the floor will help us as we move forward, if we can kind of break down the game and teach better and challenge guys in certain ways,” Holtmann said. “I think the only way that you are going to improve in that is if you have a group that goes through it.”
Despite starting the game missing each of their first five shots from the field, the Buckeyes remained within reach of the Spartans for much of the first half, never trailing by more than five points.
Much of that had to do with Ohio State’s 3-point defense in the first half, allowing Michigan State, the No. 1 3-point team in the Big Ten to make 4 of-14 attempts from deep.
After Michigan State junior guard Cassius Winston missed a 3 to start the second half, the Spartans come out of the locker room hot offensively, making their next five shots and regaining a one-point lead.
To start the second half, Michigan State made eight of its first nine shots, including 2-of-3 from 3. The Spartans shot 54.3 percent in the second half.
Winston led the Spartans in the second half with 17 points, giving him a team-leading 24 points in the win.
Despite playing without Kaleb Wesson, who was on the bench with four fouls, the back-and-forth continued after Washington brought the Buckeyes within two points with his second 3 of the game and Wesson tied it at 64 with a contested layup.
After Michigan State junior forward and Gahanna, Ohio native Nick Ward drew a foul on a layup, giving the Spartans a three-point lead, Andre Wesson answered with a 3 of his own, his second of the game.
After the 3 with 6:07 left in the game, Ohio State failed to connect on a field goal until freshman guard Luther Muhammad recorded a layup with 45 seconds to go.
“I just feel like at times we settled,” Kaleb Wesson said when asked about the scoring drought. “We didn’t try and get paint touches.”
The Spartans secured the 9-point victory late in the second half, going on an 8-0 run to go up 79-72, a lead they would not give up the rest of the game.
Michigan State came into the game without its third-leading scorer. Junior guard Joshua Langford sat out Saturday’s win against Ohio State with a left ankle injury. Junior guard Kyle Ahrens, the brother of Ohio State freshman guard Justin Ahrens, made the start in his place, recording nine points, making 4-of-6 from the field.
Kaleb Wesson felt as though Ohio State had a shot to earn another home win against a Top-10 team, just like the win last season against No. 1 Michigan State. However, he said the Buckeyes gave the Spartans too many opportunities.
“I just feel like we need to be better about keeping our foot on teams’ necks and not letting up,” Kaleb Wesson said. “You give them life, they are just going to take it and run with it.”
Ohio State will try and rebound from its first Big Ten loss of the season on the road against Rutgers on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Updated at 3:52 p.m. with postgame comments from Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann and sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson.