Value City Arena
The Michigan State Spartans got their biggest basketball win in a long time tonight here in Ohio upsetting the #3 team in all of college basketball. The Spartans pushed the ball from the moment they got off the bus. They imposed their will on the Buckeyes and came away with a victory at Value City Arena in front of a raucous crowd.
MSU wanted to run down Ohio State’s short bench. They did just that and took OSU to the brink of exhaustion. MSU head coach Tom Izzo said of his game plan, “We tried to wear them down by running our offense. We just kept telling our big guys to sprint on the break, even if it’s not there.”
Spartan Nation has said for years that OSU head coach Thad Matta makes a critical mistake every year by having such a short bench. He may be the best recruiter in the country outside of Calipari at Kentucky. Matta is one of the worst in game managers in the Big Ten and he was exposed.
What did Izzo think of his playing a deep bench and always keeping a fresh big man on the Buckeye’s Jared Sullinger who played all forty minutes? “I think it went really well. I think we rotated those guys in there pretty well. That was the game plan.”
Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne Alex Gauna played a combined 41 minutes. Still the Big Ten’s second best player (Sullinger) had an amazing night scoring and rebounding the ball with 17 points and 16 boards. However, he also had a stunning 10 turnovers.
I asked Derrick Nix about the minutes from the MSU bigs and their play on Sullinger on the interior. Derrick had this to say about Coach Izzo’s game plan. “That legit. We definitely wore him out. We used our bodies to front him and did everything we could to get in his head.” Did you get in his head? “Yeah I think so.”
Adreian Payne was asked the same question about getting in the head of Sullinger. He said, “Yeah I think we frustrated him at times.”
Sullinger said of the play of Payne, “He played well. Everybody is going to say he scored on me every time. He attacked offensive boards and he got a lot of points off of that. He is a great friend of mine and I wish him all the best and with everything he has been through; he deserved it.”
The praise for Payne continued when Branden Dawson said of his teammate, “The man that made this for us was Adreian Payne. He came home (he is from Ohio) and was up and ready.”
Sophomore point guard Keith Appling said of the bigs, “They played great… tough; we knew we needed them.” Were they in the head of Sullinger? “Yeah a little bit. I think it was in the back of his mind.”
Green wouldn’t go as far as to say that MSU got in Sullinger’s head, but he looked pleased with their defensive performance. He had another great game with twelve points and nine rebounds. “They (bigs) did a great job, but when you are playing a great player it is hard to get in his head.”
OSU sophomore guard Aaron Craft also had an amazing night. Like Sullinger, he played the entire 40 minutes and added 15 points. He said of the MSU defense, “You have to give them a lot of credit. What they hang their hat on is big pressure defense. They limited us to one shot and they shrink the floor. Our guys weren’t ready for it tonight. Some of our actions are supposed to flow from side to side and we got a little bit selfish and were just taking shots for ourselves.”
Izzo enjoyed this game. Bodies were flying all over the floor. Unlike the last few games, he was the beneficiary of some interesting calls. He said, “It was a hell of a game. I say that because in the first half we couldn’t do anything with the defense they put on us.”
OSU head coach That Matta seemed to echo the sentiment about his defense. “We played good enough on defense to win, but you can’t shoot 26%.”
Izzo said afterwards, “We played pretty good and still barely beat them…I still think Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten. Maybe they were worn down a little bit.”
Izzo’s game plan included not only taking the game to Sullinger and making him run, but also noticing that when he gets the ball down low he likes to take a dribble. Izzo said, “Every time he put it on the ground we dug it out.” That is how Michigan State forced Sullinger into making ten turnovers.
Sullinger said of the game plan by the Spartans that forced his ten turnovers, “Most of the turnovers I had were me going up for shots. I wasn’t expecting the double (coverage) because that’s not what Michigan State shows on film. They dig, but they don’t dig like they did today. We have to give them credit, they had a great game plan and they stuck to their system. That’s what happens when you stick to your system.”
The stat sheet looked really good for Payne. He had 15 points and four rebounds along with two blocks and two steals. Derrick Nix added six points and two steals. Another notable stat for the game tonight was Brandon Wood who came off the bench and got seven rebounds. The Spartans also out rebounded the Buckeyes by a 37-34 margin.
Keith Appling once again continued to struggle. He had 14 points, but the Spartans point guard had seven turnovers.
So where is MSU now? Izzo was asked if he was pleased? I am until I looked at our schedule. I said to my staff this morning, we had to be prepared to possibly lose four or five in a row.”
The Spartans snapped the Buckeyes 39-consecutive home game winning streak and the 48 points is the fewest scored in a Big Ten home game for OSU since 1998 when they scored 46 against Iowa.
The Spartans head home for a Thursday night tilt with Wisconsin at the Breslin. That game is an ESPN 7 P.M. tip off and the Spartans should be among the top ten teams.