Life after No. 1 in the scarlet and grey hometown of the Buckeyes doesn’t seem so bad after Tuesday night’s win. Ohio State, bouncing back from their first loss of the season, was able to outlast Michigan State, handing them their sixth loss in the last eight games.
William Buford’s game play was a huge part of the Buckeyes success against the Spartans, shooting 9-15 from the field, and going 3-4 from 3-pt territory. Buford had a total of 23 points, many of which were “must score” baskets for Ohio State throughout the game. Coach Matta praised his performance stating, “He was very down and focused going into the game. He had a good look in his eye. He made a couple shots early and got rolling. I think Will is a terrific player. The biggest thing tonight was his defense. I thought he did a great job defending and trailing screens. He was very active. I talked to him at halftime, but he looked pretty strong all the way through.”
The Buckeyes, however as a team, got off to a very slow start shooting only 44.4% compared to Michigan State’s 62.5% in the first half. “We didn’t bring it in the first half,” Buford stated. “We didn’t play with any intensity. But we came out in the second half and played together and picked it up.”
Jared Sullinger got into early foul trouble picking up two quick fouls in the first half, which ultimately limited his minutes and impact on the game against the Spartans. Sullinger ended the night with 11 points and only playing 27 minutes, but later went on to point out that although he did not contribute as much as past games, as a team they functioned well. “I think on any given night, anyone can lead the team in scoring. That’s just how great I think this team is right now.”
Matta although concerned, felt little pressure with Sullinger’s foul trouble. He stated “We need him to be as good as he can be obviously. I thought he did some pretty good things out there. He made a couple big-time defensive plays in positioning.” Even without Sullinger, Matta still believes Ohio State has an elite team. “I like this team because I think there’s balance. Four guys in double figures out of 71 points, I love that. It was an extremely physical game. I thought we did a good job of playing off of him even when he didn’t get the touches.”
Aaron Craft had 7 points Tuesday night, 5 of which were from the free throw line, but scored a very critical basket on a loose ball play down the stretch. Craft also had a key steal, which lead to a foul on the play and technical foul against Michigan’s Draymond Green. After the three of four shot attempts made, Ohio State lead Michigan State 69-59 with 1:42 left in the game.
From Tom Izzo’s perspective, Michigan State’s head coach, the Spartans had all the right numbers to beat the Buckeyes. “We did just about everything I wanted to do except we turned over the ball and didn’t get to the free throw line. We did about as good of a job on Jared Sullinger as we could tonight. I’m most proud of our three big guys.” Sulligner’s numbers on offense were compensated with Jon Diebler’s 12 points, David Lighty’s 12, and Dallas Lauderdale’s 6 for the night.
Ohio State now ranked No. 2, will travel to take on Purdue this Sunday at 1 o’clock in West Lafayette, Ind. The Buckeyes have 5 remaining games before the Big Ten Conference Tournament starts, and hopes to enter the NCAA March Madness tournament as a No. 1 seed, with their eyes on a national championship trophy.
**View slide show to see more images from the game**
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