Michigan State opened Big Ten tournament play on Friday night in Chicago on a good note, defeating Ohio State 76-67.
The Spartans set the tone early, working the paint against the oversized Buckeyes. Branden Dawson and Matt Costello got the better of Amir Williams and Trey McDonald for most of the game, with MSU outscoring OSU 20-8 in the paint for the first half.
“We had to come out and be physical and kind of make the first punch,” senior guard Travis Trice said. “We knew we had to come out and we had to be physical with them because they’re a really talented team.”
MSU jumped out to a 24-12 lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half after a gorgeous dime from Tum Tum Nairn to Dawson. The Buckeyes stayed within striking distance for most of the first half, holding MSU scoreless for nearly three minutes before halftime.
The second half belonged to the Spartans. Trice put his head down and went to work, driving to the basket and stepping back for threes at will. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half.
The lead grew to as much as 17 in the second half, as OSU struggled to find any rhythm against MSU’s defense.
Late in the game, the outside shots finally started to fall for the scarlet and gray as they trimmed the deficit to five with three minutes remaining after a Marc Loving three-pointer. Spartan fans had to sweat out the final minutes.
Back-to-back baskets by Dawson cut the MSU lead back to nine with 1:40 to go.
After free throws, a controversial play that the referees had to review, the Spartans finally came out victorious.
“For us to come out and get a huge win against a great team, a disciplined team, it was great for us,” Dawson said.
Valentine stuffed his stat sheet with 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while Dawson held his own against the the tough interior defense of the Buckeyes by scoring 14 points and grabbing eight boards.
Michigan State will square off with Maryland on Saturday at 3:25 p.m. ET for a chance to play in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.
Blake Froling is the co-host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.