Impressive Spartan second half earns top-15 road win

Kyle Turk, Sports Editor

COLUMBUS, Ohio — 18 second-half points from Cassius Winston paced No. 8 Michigan State to an 86-77 road win over No. 14 Ohio State on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps MSU’s most impressive road performance so far, they again went without guard Josh Langford for the second game in a row.

Ohio State went on a 10-0 run right before halftime, drawing comparisons to last year’s game here, where a then-No. 1 MSU couldn’t keep it close. This year, a more experienced Spartan roster hung in and took punches from the Buckeyes for the first 20 minutes.

Winston took control from the start of the second half, getting into the paint for three layups before an Aaron Henry 3-pointer gave MSU a 51-50 lead just 5 minutes in. From there, it was back-and-forth for most of the second half, with nine lead changes.

“Our experience helped in the second half, I was very disappointed in the first half,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. “Defensively I thought we were a joke. Loose balls, long rebounds I thought they got everything. Defense travels, you don’t win on the road in this league without your defense.”

Winston tied for the game lead in points with OSU center Kaleb Wesson, each scoring 25 points. Wesson proved a difficult matchup inside for MSU’s Nick Ward, who has had tough times in Value City Arena for the two previous years. Instead, the junior forward who lived just 12 minutes away from Columbus had his best game here by far. Ward scored 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting, going an unusual 11-of-14 at the free-throw line.

“That’s another guy [Ward] that grew a lot,” Izzo said. “We all knew that last year was a disaster down here for him, partially because they were good last year, partially because he let things get to him. That maturity makes me feel good about him.”

Wesson struggled with foul trouble in the second half, eventually fouling out after picking up just a lone whistle in the first 20 minutes.

With Langford out, it came down to a host of different Spartans to pick up the scoring slack. Matt McQuaid was MSU’s third-highest scorer with 12, while it was a big pair of buckets from Kyle Ahrens that changed the game for MSU.

With 10 minutes left and MSU down by 1, his two-handed dunk was wide-open and gave MSU a real sense of footing in the game. Then, with just over two and a half minutes remaining, his offensive rebound and putback layup pushed the MSU lead to five after a Kenny Goins jumper.

Ahrens ended up with 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Also putting in a solid effort with Langford out was Henry, who was in the game for just one minute in the first half after a pair of fouls. Izzo featured Henry heavily in the second half, as Henry came up with a pair of steals – likely his best all-around performance of the season.

“Halftime was bad,” Henry said. “We couldn’t go out there and play worse than we did in the first half. If we even played a little better, we’d turn the game around. I’m glad we corrected it and began to play better.”

OSU played the Spartans close for most of the game, leading 72-71 with 4:39 left after a Ward and-one pushed the lead to 3. But Ward wouldn’t be denied, making a pair of free throws and playing solid defense on Wesson before he fouled out with just under two minutes left.

Wesson ended up with just 8 second-half points despite the Buckeyes finishing with five players in double-figures. Freshman guard Luther Muhammad was next-best with 12 points, while Kaleb’s brother Andre, guard Duane Washington Jr. and senior C.J. Jackson each had 10.

MSU outscored the Buckeyes 50-34 in the second half and have now stretched their winning streak to eight. OSU lost their first game in seven attempts, and now sit at 12-2.

For now, for Izzo’s team, a 4-0 start in Big Ten play – earning a road win that he called “the frosting on the cake.”

Up next

MSU heads back home for a Tuesday night matchup with Purdue, with tipoff scheduled for 9 p.m. Ohio State heads to New Jersey on Wednesday for a road trip at Rutgers, that game is scheduled for 7 p.m.