Forbes lifts Spartans in lackluster victory

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Columbus, Ohio — Michigan State had Bryn Forbes on Tuesday night at Ohio State, and for that, coach Tom Izzo was thankful.

He was thankful because he couldn’t find a lot to say that was positive about his team despite an 81-62 victory over Ohio State at Value City Arena.

Forbes was the catalyst, scoring 27 points on 7-for-10 shooting from 3-point range, and it helped shake No. 6 Michigan State (23-5, 10-5 Big Ten) out of an early funk in time for it to pull away in the second half.

BOX SCORE: Michigan State 81, Ohio State 62

“Forbes was brilliant tonight and he deserves every bit of credit he should get,” Izzo said. “We came out of those first three plays we were running and we ran all of them wrong and that’s a lack of focus more than a lack of energy. That’s thinking that you don’t have to have attention to detail. And that really, really, really bothered me. So I’ve been upset as some of you know over wins, I’ve been upset over losses. This was disappointing for me at this time of year because we didn’t beat them by 20, it was a lot closer game than that.”

Denzel Valentine added 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds while Matt Costello scored 16. However, Izzo didn’t want to look at the box score.

“We didn’t do the things we needed to do early in that game,” Izzo said. “We did not rebound very well for a team that’s a pretty good rebounding team. We defended OK because they missed some shots. My big guys — they were out to lunch tonight. Don’t let stats deceive you. … For the most part, my bigs are reading their press clippings and they did not play very well.

“I did a poor job with Denzel Valentine. I didn’t get him any rest and he had open shots there for a while that he couldn’t make because I think he was dead tired and that’s completely my fault.”

The one thing that was going right for the Spartans throughout the game was their 3-point shooting. They entered the game the top 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten and third-best in the nation at 42.4 percent.

On Tuesday, Michigan State was 7-for-10 in the first half and was 14-for-19 at one point in the second before missing the last three attempts. The Spartans finished 14-for-22 for 63.6 percent, matching the performance they had in the win over Michigan. But it was Forbes who was especially impressive.

“I did what I’m supposed to do and I felt like I played OK,” Forbes said before laughing when he was asked if he really meant just OK. “Yeah, I could have made a couple of more shots.”

Forbes hit just one 3-pointer in the first half but made five of his first six in the second half as Michigan State started to pull away.

“When he is hot like that, as soon as I get the ball I’m like, ‘Where’s Bryn at?’ ” Valentine said. “We shot the ball really well but I feel like we didn’t execute as good as we could have. But in the second half Bryn bailed us out and made some tough shots, but that’s the type of player he is. A lot of times I’m coming off screens and pin downs and they’re all coming at me and leaving Bryn open. So I’m like, ‘Hey, leave him open.’ ”

Marc Loving scored 19 for Ohio State (18-11, 10-6), which entered the game having won four straight. JaQuan Lyle added 16 points for the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes played without sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate, who is likely out for the season after injuring his shoulder last weekend.

“I think he’s the heart and soul of this team,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “We challenge our guys when we have a man down, we need to man up. It’s one of those things you hate for Jae’Sean, but with that said, you need to find a way to regroup.”

As the Spartans struggled early Ohio State took the lead at 25-24. Michigan State started to put things together late in the half and led, 36-31, at the break.

A heated Izzo challenged his players at halftime

“He was pretty angry,” Forbes said. “He snapped and we deserved it and it helped us come back in the second half and show how vital it is that we play well this time of year.”

The win moved Michigan State into sole possession of fourth place in the Big Ten with three games remaining, a key spot in the standings considering the top four teams get a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

The Spartans will be heavy favorites in their final three games as they host Penn State on Sunday before traveling to Rutgers next week and finishing at home on March 5 against Ohio State. But Izzo knows he’ll need a better showing than the one on Tuesday.

“This time of year, we’ve got to figure out what’s important,” Izzo said. “Because we all know right around the corner — Big Ten tournament. One bad night, you go home.

“And I think we’ve been playing good, a couple guys have been playing real good, maybe they can’t handle that. I’ve been slacking off, trying to get them rest. I wasn’t happy with them but I’m more unhappy with me, so I’ve got to do a face lift here these last couple of days.”