COLUMBUS — Off to a disastrous 0-4 start in the Big 10 that included a demoralizing blowout loss to Wisconsin earlier this week, Ohio State sorely needed a performance that would restore some swagger.
That finally came Sunday. JaQuan Lyle led the way with 22 points and all five starters scored in double figures as the Buckeyes beat Michigan State 72-67 in one of team’s most complete games thus far.
“We needed it,” a relieved Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “There was no question about that.”
Lyle knocked down 5 of 7 shots from beyond the 3-point line as Ohio State (11-7, 1-4 Big Ten) pulled away and held off the Spartans down the stretch.
Marc Loving and Jae’Sean Tate each scored 12, and Kam Williams and Trevor Thompson each had 10 for the Buckeyes, whose season seemed to be teetering on the verge of collapse after the troubling start and the loss of a key player, Keita Bates-Diop, to a season-ending leg injury.
“It’s a good feeling,” Lyle said. “We ain’t won since Dec. 22, so it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s a great start and we’ve just got to keep fighting for the rest of the Big Ten season. We showed we can play through adversity and compete.”
Ohio State grabbed a 59-58 lead on a Lyle 3-pointer with 7:15 left and led by as many as seven in the stretch. Michigan State (12-7, 4-2) surged back in final 3½ minutes but came up short.
A layup by Miles Bridges pulled Michigan State to 70-67 with 20 seconds left. But Williams converted a free throw for a four-point Ohio State lead, and Michigan State’s Joshua Langford missed a 3-pointer. Tate grabbed the rebound and was fouled, then converted a free throw with 2 seconds left to seal it.
“We didn’t cover them well, and they hit some shots,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We did not defend like we have been. We had a couple of guys who struggled defensively.”
Bridges paced Michigan State with 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting and he was 4 for 5 from beyond the arc. Nick Ward had nine points, and Langford added eight.
Ohio State led 36-33 at the half, climbing back after the Spartans hit their first six shots of the game. The Buckeyes assumed the lead at 9:20 with a 3-pointer from Loving and led by as much as seven. A 3-pointer from Langford with 3 seconds left capped the first-half scoring.
“I did not think they’d shoot like that, I’ll be very honest with you,” Izzo said of Ohio State’s performance. “They haven’t shown that all year.”
The typically outspoken Izzo said he felt his friend Matta has been subject to some unfair criticism in Columbus lately over his team’s sluggish season so far.
“I shouldn’t say this, but I’m happy for him,” Izzo said. “From the standpoint of the way people treat him around here, I’m happy for him. He’s won a lot of games here.”
Michigan State: A talented team that ran into an inspired opponent. Spartans played well, but the Buckeyes were better all-around, despite a great game from Bridges.
Ohio State: Biggest win of the year so far for the Buckeyes, who were on a downward spiral in the Big Ten. The win over a good Michigan State team is a huge confidence boost.
Michigan State: Plays at Indiana on Saturday.
Ohio State: Played at Nebraska on Wednesday night.
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