CHICAGO — Ohio State and Michigan State are familiar with how matchups go against each other.
In both of the games between the Buckeyes and the Spartans this season, Ohio State has held a lead at halftime, seemingly stifling Michigan State’s dominant offense.
Then, in either a subtle or dramatic fashion, the Spartans get it together to defeat the Buckeyes, the first time by nine points, the second time by 18.
This time around, it was more of the same, as top-seeded Michigan State pulled away from eighth-seeded Ohio State late, defeating the Buckeyes 77-70.
“We’ve really competed against them,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “At our place it got away in the last five minutes, at their place it was such an odd second half with struggling to score, and they had a lot to do with that, but I think we can take some encouragement.”
Ohio State trailed by six at the half, but the Spartans led by as much as 21 points in the second half behind 52 percent shooting from the field.
Behind a 16-0 run in the final minutes of the game, the Buckeyes cut the deficit down to as low as five points, but ultimately the Spartans were able to seal the victory by a margin that seemed closer than the game was.
“I love the way we finished the game,” Holtmann said. “You know we made some mistakes, we turned it over too much, but I just loved how our guys fought and finished out the game.”
Holtmann said he was impressed with the play from the younger players on his team in the final minutes, which includes freshman guard Duane Washington.
“We have a great group of guys in this locker room. Guys who love the game, guys who are very passionate about it,” Washington said. “We knew we were going to fight until the end and we were going to give it our all.”
Ohio State continued to give Michigan State opportunities to score, committing 21 personal fouls, allowing the Spartans to shoot 21 free throws as opposed to Ohio State’s 10.
“It’s tough getting a rhythm,” sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson said. “You think everything’s going well, and then the game stops. It’s hard to get back in rhythm like that.”
The veteran presence was strong for the Buckeyes once again, with redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods scoring a team-high 16 points, going 5-of-8 from the field.
Junior forward Andre Wesson also made an impact, finishing with 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.
His brother did not have the same success. Kaleb Wesson finished with seven points and three rebounds after fouling out with 9:42 remaining in the second half.
“Having to watch instead of being able to contribute, it’s tough,” Kaleb Wesson said.
Closely after Wesson’s departure from the game, Michigan State got its major turning point in the game.
Already up eight, junior guard Cassius Winston connected from 3, along with a foul, finishing the four-point play to put Michigan State up 61-49.
On the Spartans’ next possession, Winston found freshman forward Aaron Henry from about half court for an alley-oop finish, giving Michigan State a 14-point lead it would not give up for the rest of the game.
Winston, this season’s Big Ten Player of the Year, finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Ohio State found some momentum early in the second half, going on an 8-0 run to take a 40-38 lead with a dunk by sophomore guard Musa Jallow and a pair of 3-pointers by Andre and Kaleb Wesson.
But Michigan State responded with a 9-0 run of its own, finished off by five points from freshman guard Foster Loyer.
Loyer had his best game of the season against the Buckeyes, tallying a career-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep. The freshman guard averaged 1.4 points per game and had made four 3s in his collegiate career coming in.
“Obviously he’s not done that a whole lot, but we had him on our scouting report,” Holtmann said. “His 3s gave them life, his 3s really gave them life.”
The Spartans finished scoring 10 of the last 15 points in the first, going into halftime with a 36-30 lead. Michigan State shot 63.6 percent from the field, with Loyer leading the team with nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting, all from 3.
Ohio State shot 38.5 percent, and struggled to hold onto the ball during the first half, committing 10 turnovers, allowing Michigan State to outscore the Buckeyes 15-5 in points off turnovers through the first 20 minutes.
The foul troubles also hit, with four Ohio State players — Woods, Kaleb Wesson, Jallow and freshman guard Luther Muhammad — finishing with two fouls or more at halftime. Woods finished the first half with three fouls, but led the team with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Ohio State will now wait and see if it will make the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday.
Holtmann is not too worried about missing the tournament based on his team’s resume.
“I feel good,” Holtmann said. “I mean, who knows what could happen, but I feel like our body of work has positioned us very, very well.”