No last-second theatrics were necessary this time, and there won’t be one iconic moment for Ohio State to memorialize.
It had been 4,690 days since Matt Sylvester’s buzzer-beater knocked off No. 1 Illinois at Value City Arena in coach Thad Matta’s first season. Given a similar opportunity Sunday night against top-ranked Michigan State, the Buckeyes gave first-year coach Chris Holtmann a signature win by trouncing the Spartans 80-64 in front of a raucous home crowd of 17,599.
The first word out of Holtmann’s mouth after the game: “Whoa.” Need a big moment to remember? Pick one.
“This is a moment that our fans and our players will remember for a long time,” he said. “They’ll take parts and pieces from it. It feels really good.”
The Buckeyes (13-4, 4-0 Big Ten) turned what had been a nip-and-tuck affair into a howler with a thunderous close to the first half. With the score tied at 29 when Michigan State's Joshua Langford hit a jumper with 1:49 left in the half, junior Keita Bates-Diop came up with a diving strip of Gahanna native Nick Ward, which popped the ball to a waiting Andrew Dakich. Bates-Diop sprinted up the floor, caught Dakich’s half-court pass in stride and slammed it home for the fifth and final lead change of the game.
The crowd roared and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo used a timeout, but Langford traveled on the next possession with 56.3 seconds left. Jae’Sean Tate scored from the right block, then blocked Jaren Jackson — who is listed 7 inches taller than Tate — leading to a Kam Williams three-pointer to make it a 36-29 lead. As the Buckeyes celebrated, Izzo was slapped with a technical foul with 14.2 seconds left, and Bates-Diop added two free throws.
“The problem started with me,” Izzo said of the technical. “There will be no blaming of the players.”
That made it a 38-27 lead, but Ohio State wasn’t done. Cassius Winston missed a jumper with about five seconds left, and Williams got the rebound and fed Dakich. A few feet beyond halfcourt, he banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer that sent the arena into near pandemonium.
It was a 16-2 run to close the half, including a 10-0 run during the final 45 seconds.
Bates-Diop finished with a career-high 32 points, which tied him for the second-most points scored by a Buckeye at the arena.
“It feels pretty good, to be honest,” Bates-Diop said with a smile.
The win is Ohio State’s first against a No. 1 team since a 49-48 win against Wisconsin to close the 2006-07 season and its first as an unranked team against the No. 1 team since Sylvester’s shot. It is the Buckeyes’ third win in a row, their eighth in their last nine games and one that surely will put them in the national rankings Monday for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
“We all knew we could do it, and that’s where it started,” Tate said. “You can’t (play) a team like Michigan State (15-2, 3-1) and not believe it’s possible to win.”