With a game-high 18 points from forward Aaron Henry, Michigan State (13-9, 7-9) defended their home court in a physical battle against No. 4 Ohio State (18-6, 12-6), defeating the Buckeyes 71-67 thanks to an 11-4 run over the game’s final three minutes.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann was ejected from the game with 1.4 seconds remaining following his second technical foul for what he believed were plays that would normally be called fouls in any other Big Ten game, but they weren’t being called in this game.
EJ Liddell led Ohio State with 18 points, but did it on 4-of-13 shooting. Duane Washington scored 17 points but went just 1-of-7 from three-point range. He missed his last five shots of the game.
Michigan State forward Aaron Henry led the Spartans with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists. All four of his rebounds came in the second half, as did three of his four assists. He was also a capable defender against EJ Liddell down the stretch. Henry scored nine points over the game’s final 12 minutes, which was instrumental in turning a 49-40 Ohio State lead into an eventual Michigan State win.
This was not a game that was pleasing to the eye. It was one of the most physical games of the year, which is to be expected when these two teams get together. And yet, Ohio State was still on track to win this one — until they weren’t. The game was lost down the stretch. The Buckeyes missed their final eight field goals, but many of those were desperation. They were struggling well before they started shooting blanks. They went the final 4:46 without a field goal. And while the OSU offense went radio silent, the Spartan offense started playing all the hits. Michigan State hit nine of their final 11 field goal attempts to overtake the Buckeyes and send them home bruised and bothered.
With Ohio State leading 40-38 early in the second half, EJ Liddell went up for a shot at the rim and missed. Chris Holtmann believed there was a foul and he was out on the court in the face of an official, who quickly whistled the Buckeye head coach for a technical foul. Ohio State was a bit stagnant in the minutes leading up to the whistle on Holtmann. Michigan State immediately tied the game with two foul shots, but then Ohio State went on a 9-0 run that allowed them to keep the Spartans at a distance. For a while. Michigan State came back once again, grabbed the lead, and on Ohio State’s final offensive possession, Holtmann believed another call went missing. He had seen enough and picked up his second technical foul. There was no 9-0 run following the second technical, however.
After the game, CJ Walker said he thought the game was called evenly, but that it was an adjustment because of how physical the game was being played. Chris Holtmann was whistled for two technicals for arguing about no-calls on EJ Liddell twice. The personal fouls were even and the free throws basically were as well, but this was a game that could have used some control on the part of the refs. And the one time the refs had a moment to breathe and assert some control, they took a three-pointer off the board from Duane Washington in the first half after looking at it on replay. Of course, the bizarre part about that was that replay showed the shot was out of Washington’s hands before the shot clock hit zero. After the game, Holtmann said the explanation that he got was that “it was close.” Holtmann was clearly unhappy with a handful of calls on the night, but was also adamant that his team wasn’t physical enough. Had there been any more physicality, however, somebody may have been seriously hurt.
The Box Score
— Give Michigan State credit. They were more physical and played with more force and made more plays down the stretch.
— Michigan State just made a few more shots in the last few minutes and OSU didn’t finish.
— Why did he get ejected? “I’m not going to talk specifically about the officiating.” “It’s my fault on the technicals.” Michigan State made more plays down the stretch and were more physical.
— Justin Ahrens is just getting a lot of attention from defenses right now. “Not concerned about him.”
— Duane Washington’s ankle was fine.
— He liked the defense in the middle part of the first and second half, but not down the stretch. “That’s my fault.”
— Did the refs give him any explanation on the three-pointer that was taken off the board? “The explanation was that it was close.” “I wish I could say more. It would have been an important three points.”
— They’ll know more about Kyle Young’s availability on Sunday tomorrow.
— “Gotta give them credit, they were phsyical.”
— They tried to go where they wanted to go on offense but weren’t able to play through the contact like they have in the past.
— “We knew what we were getting into here.”
— His first technical foul was concerning plays that were normally called fouls in every Big Ten game were not being called fouls. And the one on EJ Liddell was an obvious one.
— In a game like this, Kyle Young would have really helped with the rebounding, physicality, getting loose balls, etc. “We’ll hope to get him back soon enough, but give Michigan State credit.”
— What changed down the stretch? Michigan State played tougher down the stretch and they made shots at the end. “We couldn’t get what we wanted at the other end.” Needed a better three minutes.
— Chris Holtmann is passionate and wants to win. His emotions got into the game at the end. “He just wanted us to win the game. It happens to the best of them.”
— They’ll go back and watch the film and get better. March is coming up. Gotta refocus and get better defensively. He’s taking that on himself to get the team better.
— What wasn’t working tonight offensively? Weren’t aggressiveness enough or physical enough. Just didn’t finish after contact like they normally do. Weren’t playing with enough force.
— It was an evenly called game. “We just didn’t finish through contact.” You can’t expect too many calls in the Big Ten. Have to be better around the run. “I wouldn’t say it was uneven or unfair…”
— They have to be better on defense in March. It’s an emphasis for them. Helpside communication and things like that. They did that well tonight except down the stretch.
— The mood in the locker room? “Upset. Nobody likes to lose.” He needs to be better as a leader to keep this from happening again.
— You can feel it early in the game when the refs are going to let physical play happen. “The Big Ten is just one of those conferences where you never know. You have to adjust.”
— They did the little things they needed to do over the first 10 minutes of the second half, but then the physicality went up and things started going Michigan State’s way.
— They definitely missed Kyle Young. “He just does a lot for us.”
[Duane Washington photo courtesy of the Ohio State Dept of Athletics.]