Nick Ward, Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston talk about the Spartans loss to the Buckeyes. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Columbus, Ohio — Nick Ward’s return home didn’t go how he’d hoped, but even after a second straight loss at Ohio State it was an improvement from a season ago.
The Spartans’ big man took just one shot in Ohio State’s 80-64 victory over No. 1 Michigan State on Sunday, but unlike last season when the Gahanna, Ohio, native allowed frustration to take over in front of friends and family, this time he battled to the end, scoring just three points but grabbing 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.
“If there was a positive for me with us it was that Nick was 10 times better than last year,” Izzo said. “This year it was us and last year it was Nick (that was a problem) and that shows great maturity on Nick’s part. He still battled for 10 rebounds and there wasn’t one huddle where he said a word.
“As has been well-documented since our meeting in Rutgers, I have been really, really pleased with the way Nick has worked, how he’s handled things and how he’s worked on his free throws. Tonight, in tough situation for him, I thought he handled it extremely well.”
Last week’s Big Ten Player of the Week, Ward entered the game having made 38 of 44 shots over a four-game stretch. On Sunday, the Buckeyes weren’t about to let the sophomore beat them, making it hard for him to get the ball on the block and routinely double-teaming him when he did.
The result was an 0-for-1 shooting night.
“They did a big-big double, they did a guard-big double, they doubled me from the baseline, they doubled me from the high side,” Ward said. “They mixed it up in every way and made it difficult.”
Izzo wanted Ward to be more patient with the ball when he was double-teamed, but he put the offensive woes on the entire team, not just Ward.
“They doubled after he touched it,” Izzo said. “We didn’t get it to him in the first place. We’re just coming off 30 assists on 32 baskets (against Maryland) and we had (13 against Ohio State) and just dribbled the ball. We did not move the ball very well, got very stagnant and very one-on-one which we haven’t done all year.”
Ward’s teammates agreed they didn’t do a good job of getting him the ball.
“That’s definitely the part of getting the ball moving around,” point guard Cassius Winston said. “He could have kicked it out on the double and we could have swung it right back in. We just weren’t playing smart out there.”
And it worked right into Ohio State’s defensive game plan.
“When we play teams with such dominant bigs like Nick and (Jaren) Jackson, we usually try to double them, make it as tough as possible, and get the ball out of their hands,” Ohio State forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done it, and it won’t be the last. It was great coaching by Coach (Chris) Holtmann. We were able to hold Nick to one shot, and that was the key to our win.”
Watch your language
The 12-0 run for Ohio State at the end of the first half included a critical technical foul on Izzo, and the coach was placing plenty of blame on himself.
However, he wasn’t changing his opinion that the Spartans deserved a call on a Jaren Jackson drive to the hoop. With less than 30 seconds left in the half, Jackson appeared to get hit on a move in the lane but no call was made. Ohio State hit a 3-pointer 7 seconds later and Izzo got called for the technical by D.J. Carstensen.
“Maybe I’m wrong on it but I thought, in this day and age, I think that was worthy of assault and battery. I don’t know,” Izzo said of the non-call on Jackson. “I saw it the way I saw it and I said what I said and I deserved the technical, but I want my mother to know I didn’t swear at him.”
Michigan State entered the game the No. 1 in field-goal percentage defense in the nation, allowing teams to shoot 33.1 percent. Ohio State finished the game 31-for-59 for 52.5 percent, the best of any Michigan State opponent this season.
The previous best this season was Notre Dame, which shot 44.4 percent.
… Michigan State scored just four bench points after entering the game averaging 18.2 points a game from its reserves. It was its lowest output of the season, one game it scored 27.
… Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop (32 points) was the third player to score 30 or more against MSU this season, joining Duke’s Grayson Allen (37) and Oakland’s Kendrick Nunn (32).