Spartans push past Ohio State after sluggish first half

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — No. 11 Michigan State made a comeback to overcome Ohio State 62-44. After a messy first half, the Spartans managed to pull things together. Michigan State is now 12-3 in the Big Ten and 21-5 overall.  

“I was totally disappointed with our effort the first half,” Tom Izzo said. “I was not disappointed with our offense. I’ve never seen Cassius [Winston] go 3-for-15. I thought the problem was we weren’t guarding and we were getting outrebounded. At halftime everybody made a commitment that we have to guard better.”

The Spartans struggled to make a basket in the first five minutes of the game. The Buckeyes’ defense tightened up, forcing Michigan State to take outside shots. The Spartans shot only 33 percent within the first 10 minutes.

After trailing for 15 minutes, the Spartans started shooting better. With 5:34 left on the clock, Matt McQuaid sunk a 3-point basket to put the Spartans in the lead 20-18.

“It felt really good,” McQuaid said. “Cassius was finding me in transition. My bigs were setting good screens. That helps a lot when my teammates are helping me get open.”

Buckeye forward Kaleb Wesson was a tough matchup for Nick Ward. Ohio State outrebounded the Spartans 25 to 17 in the first half alone. Ward ended the half with nine points and four rebounds, while Wesson had eight points and five rebounds.

“They run some nice stuff for [Wesson] and he is a load in there,” Izzo said. “He is hard to handle. I don’t know what he weighs but it’s a lot more than most of my guys. He buried people. He did a good job. I thought he got a little tired and that was one of our game plans.”

Although Michigan State had momentous possessions like a dunk from Ward and a long-range pull-up from Winston, it wasn’t enough to keep the lead. The Buckeyes shot well early on, outscoring the Spartans 31-25 by the end of the first half.

Winston ended the game with 13 points and eight assists. Thanks largely to Winston’s assists, McQuaid achieved 14 points while shooting 4-of-6 from behind the arc.

The Spartans came out energized in the second half thanks to the experienced senior Kenny Goins. Goins worked the floor with a dunk and 3-point bucket, while the Buckeyes remained scoreless in the first four minutes of the half.

“The bottom line is that McQuaid and Goins have the most experience on the team,” Izzo said. “They’ve been through the most. Kenny’s played in the final four. He understands the pressures. My biggest problem with him is getting that motor running all the time. My job is to keep pushing the gas pedal.”

Goins ended the game with a double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“We’ve got five guys on the floor, let’s get the job done,” Goins said. “Every time that shot falls you just think the next one’s going down, especially when you start hitting them in big times…just confident as ever shooting the ball.”

The electricity in the Breslin was overwhelming as the Spartans pushed their way to lead 50-42 with under five minutes left in the game.

The Buckeyes could not keep up with the Spartans’ intensity. Shooting 4-21 in the second half gave the Spartans an open door to an offensive shutdown. MSU outscored Ohio State 37-13 in the final half.

“If they don’t score, we can’t lose,” Izzo said.

Michigan State ended the game on a 20-2 run to win 62-44 and will head into its last five games before Big Ten tournament time. The Spartans will stay at home Wednesday and take on Rutgers. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.