'We were not converting': Poor shooting helps send Michigan State to third straight loss
Columbus, Ohio — Sometimes it’s as simple as putting the ball in the basket.
Sounds easy enough, but when you’re a team like Michigan State, struggling to find any offensive rhythm as a season is quickly slipping away, that can be easier said than done.
For the third straight game, Michigan State had a hard time putting the ball in the basket, and for the third straight time, the Spartans walked off the court with a loss. This time, No. 13 Ohio State was the benefactor, holding off a late push from Michigan State to earn the 79-62 victory Sunday at Value City Arena.
Michigan State has now lost three in a row for the second time this season — all Big Ten games — and heads straight to Iowa for a Tuesday night matchup with the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes.
“If I get those kind of shots and we can't make ’em, we're not going to win many games,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “At the beginning of the year, we were making all those shots. So I still think there's a lot more positive came out of today. It just got away from us at the end again.
Michigan State (8-6, 2-6 Big Ten) finished the game shooting 32.1% (17-for-53) and just 20.8% (5-for-24) from 3-point range. It came after the Spartans shot just 28.6% in the loss to Rutgers on Thursday and that was after a 39% outing against Purdue. In both of those games, Michigan State shot less than 23% from 3-point range.
It carried over to Sunday as Joshua Langford led Michigan State with 14 points but was just 4-for-15 shooting and 2-for-9 from 3-point range. Joey Hauser added 11 points while Aaron Henry added 10 but was just 2-for-8 from the field.
“You gotta make shots,” Langford said. “We were getting practically everything that we wanted offensively, we just were not converting. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to make shots.”
Ohio State (14-4, 8-4) was more than happy to take advantage of Michigan State’s wayward offense. E.J. Liddell scored 20 points to lead the Buckeyes while Justice Sueing scored 17 and CJ Walker added 10 points.
It was Ohio State’s third straight win and sixth in the last seven games.
“Obviously they’re coming back from a tough deal, coming back from COVID,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said of Michigan State. “When we see them here again in a few weeks, obviously we know it’s going to be a much different team.
“I’m proud of our guys' effort. I thought we were able to control certain aspects of the game. … A really good win for our team. A really good win for us moving forward.”
The Spartans had plenty of energy to open the game, avoiding the slow starts that have plagued them recently. However, they struggled defensively as Ohio State made six of its first nine shots and opened a six-point lead before a Langford 3-pointer pulled Michigan State within 22-19.
The Buckeyes responded with an 8-2 spurt to open a 30-21 lead, though the Spartans kept it close and with Ohio State leading, 34-28, Malik Hall went to the free-throw line with a chance to get within four. But he missed the front end of a one-and-one as Ohio State scored the next eight points to take a 42-28 lead.
The Spartans closed the half without making a basket for the final 4:43, missing their last five shots as Ohio State took a 42-30 lead to the halftime locker room.
“I thought we started off a little better,” Hauser said. “We had more energy just overall. So obviously, still not the outcome we want, but we're not going to give up. We’ll keep working and get little improvements here and there. We’ve got a piece it together, though. We’re gonna keep working. We're gonna figure it out.”
Ohio State left the door open early in the second half for Michigan State to mount a comeback, but the Spartans couldn’t take advantage as they made just three of their first 12 shots and a 12-point Ohio State lead stayed that way until the Buckeyes put together a 9-2 run to push the lead to 61-41 with just more than nine minutes to play.
Michigan State tried to make a game of it over the final nine minutes as Langford, Rocket Watts and Foster Loyer hit 3-pointers and when Watts split a pair of free throws with 6:56 to play, the Ohio State lead had been cut to 66-53. The Spartans kept the run going and pulled within single digits at 68-59 when Henry stole the ball and converted on a layup but Henry got whistled for a foul on the next possession as Ohio State extend the lead to 70-59 with 4:02 to play.
The Spartans got within 10 after Julius Marble split two free throws but Ohio State never let the margin get any smaller over the final three minutes.
“There were more positive steps tonight than negative,” Izzo said. “Just the ball doesn't go in the hole. … Making shots cures a lot of evils. When you run some good stuff and you got open shots and you don't make ’em, it’s the way it is. Can’t blame anybody for that, it’s just a fact.”