Spartans lack 'intensity,' suffer setback at Ohio State
Columbus, Ohio — Ohio State proved on Sunday it’s not as bad as its record.
Michigan State responded by showing its young roster still has a long way to go in figuring out how to build any sort of momentum.
Coming off one of its best defensive efforts of the season just a few days ago in a win over Minnesota, Michigan State struggled to contain Ohio State as the Buckeyes hit big shot after big shot to beat the Spartans, 72-67, at Value City Arena.
“I thought our step-ups were atrocious,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said of his team’s ball-screen defense. “We weren’t stepping up on those and we did such a great job on those the last game and we didn’t do it well today.”
Taking advantage was Ohio State’s JaQuan Lyle, who scored 22 points and was 5-for-7 from 3-point range. He was helped by Marc Loving and Jae’Sean Tate, who each scored 12, while Trevor Thompson and Kam Williams chipped in 10 apiece.
For the game, Ohio State (11-7, 1-4 Big Ten) was 10-for-23 from 3-point range, the most its made in a game since November. Tate and C.J. Jackson hit big 3-pointers in the second half despite both shooting worse than 20 percent from beyond the arc entering the game.
“Give Lyle credit,” Izzo said. “He made some shots and made a couple of long threes. They’ve not been a very good 3-point shooting team and they made shots.”
It helped that Michigan State’s defense allowed so many open looks, something that had as big of an impact as the 17 turnovers the Spartans committed, including 12 in the second half.
Miles Bridges had 24 points and nine rebounds, but also had six turnovers, even though Izzo wasn’t exactly buying a couple of the traveling violations Bridges was called for.
“It surprised me,” Bridges said of the way Ohio State shot the ball, “but if you let them get open shots to start and get their confidence up, especially at home, it’s gonna be a long night.
“We didn’t have the intensity. I blame the bigs and myself. We weren’t up on the ball screens and needed to help Tum Tum (Nairn) out and we didn’t get that done today.”
The Spartans (12-7, 4-2) were hoping to get on a roll after Wednesday’s blowout win at home and early against the Buckeyes it appeared they would as they couldn’t miss to open the game. Michigan State hit its first six shots before a jumper from the elbow by Cassius Winston bounced off the back of the rim with 14:39 left in the half.
It was a sign of things to come as Michigan State was just 6-for-19 the rest of half while Ohio State started taking advantage of Michigan State’s defensive lapses, hitting six 3-pointers and putting together runs of 9-0 and 11-0 to take its biggest lead of 27-20 with 7:30 to play in the opening half.
The Spartans managed to close with a flurry as Bridges grabbed the first offensive rebound of the game off a missed free throw from Joshua Langford, which led to Langford hitting a 3-pointer from the corner to end the half with Ohio State leading, 36-33.
“I’m very disappointed in a couple of our players. I didn’t think we brought it,” Izzo said. “Even though we shot well at the beginning, I think the tone was set when we went 6-for-6 and had a small lead because our defense was good enough but then we let them offensive rebound. They only had six but five came in the first couple of minutes.”
Michigan State chipped away early in the second half and went ahead, 48-46, on a 3-pointer from Kyle Ahrens with 14:45 to play. It was the first lead for the Spartans since they held a 20-19 advantage midway through the first half.
It was back and forth from there and the teams were tied at 56 with 7:49 to play following a missed putback from Langford and a traveling call on Loving. After Ward scored on a jump hook, Ohio State scored the next 10 points with 3-pointers from Lyle and Tate.
Michigan State was unable to recover, cutting the deficit to four in the final minutes but turning the ball over three times when it had a chance to pull even closer.
“It’s a good feeling,” Lyle said. “We haven’t won since Dec. 22. We just have to keep fighting for the rest of the Big Ten season. Tonight, we showed we can play through adversity and compete. That’s what we are going to have to do throughout the rest of the Big Ten season.”
For Michigan State it’s back to the drawing board in terms of trying to string together some victories.
“It has to come from within,” Langford said. “Coach Izzo is always saying a player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team. So it’s gonna be something the players have to come together and internalize within ourselves.
“We have to do this for 40 minutes. Not 20 minutes, not five minutes, not 30 minutes. We have to do it for 40 minutes and have to focus at all times. When we have that attitude I feel like we are a hard team to play against.”