No. 14 Buckeyes blow late lead to No. 8 Spartans in front of sellout crowd at Value City Arena
The evidence was building up against the No. 14 Ohio State men’s basketball team.
First, it was senior guard C.J. Jackson succumbing to a longstanding issue with cramping in his legs that would keep him off the floor for extended second-half stretches. Then it was sophomore center Kaleb Wesson, the team’s go-to offensive weapon and primary post player picking up two fouls on one early second-half possession and then a fourth with nine minutes to play. Throughout, graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods was ineffective, putting more pressure on Ohio State’s role players.
In a toe-to-toe battle with No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday afternoon at Value City Arena, it was all too much. The Spartans (13-2, 4-0 Big Ten) shot a blistering 76.5 percent in the second half, scored 50 points against the Buckeyes (12-2, 2-1) after halftime and closed on a 14-5 run in an 86-77 win in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,809.
“Certainly when you allow a team to shoot 76 percent in the second half and score 50 points on your home floor, your chances are slim and none,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said.
Much like last year, when the Buckeyes shocked No. 1 Michigan State on the same court at the same point of the season, they closed the first half with a flourish. Wesson scored 10 points to power a 15-5 run in the final 3:26 as Ohio State built a 43-36 lead during a sequence punctuated by a Duane Washington three-pointer following two acrobatic, diving saves by both Wesson and Jackson to keep the possession alive.
Wesson then opened the second half with a pair of free throws, pushing the Ohio State lead to a game-high nine points, but unlike last year the Spartans weren’t rattled. Behind the heady play of junior guard Cassius Winston, who scored 18 of his 25 points after the half, the Spartans missed their first shot and not much else. The 50 second-half points were the most in any half against the Buckeyes since Indiana scored 54 on March 4, 2017.
“At times, we let our foot off their neck,” said Wesson, who finished with 25 points but fouled out with 1:52 remaining. “That can’t happen when you play a team like that. You give them life, they’re going to take it and run with it.”
The Buckeyes went 5:19 without a field goal, a stretch only broken with 44 seconds left when Luther Muhammad scored in the paint. Throughout that stretch, with Jackson unavailable and Muhammad in foul trouble — he would foul out, as did Andre and Kaleb Wesson — Holtmann had to rely on some younger players to log significant minutes.
The teams will meet again Feb. 17 at the Breslin Center.
“Truly, I don’t think we should’ve lost the game,” Wesson said. “I don’t think they’re any better than we are. I mean, we had mishaps that happened late in the game that cost us the game, but I don’t think there’s any huge step or level that we need to take to beat a team like that.”