Chicago — It was a rematch of last year’s Big Ten Tournament title game and, for 20 minutes, both teams already appeared in championship form.
A tip-dunk by junior center Adreian Payne helped the No. 8 MSU men’s basketball team (25-7) come from behind to edge in front of No. 10 Ohio State (24-7) 29-28 at halftime of the Big Ten Tournament’s second semifinal.
The winner will face Wisconsin tomorrow afternoon for the Big Ten Tournament title.
The early moments were defined by outside shooting, as the Buckeyes traded threes with junior guard Keith Appling on consecutive possessions.
The Spartans then turned to their bigs, with back-to-back buckets down low from senior center Derrick Nix, followed by another 3-pointer, this time from Payne, extending MSU’s lead to six, 13-7, with 14:06 to go in the first half.
Nix paced the Spartans with 10 points and four rebounds in the opening period, while Appling added eight points.
But a pair of defensive lapses allowed the Buckeyes to claw back into the game, first on an inbounds play where forward Evan Ravenel got an uncontested dunk and later when guard Aaron Craft blew by the Spartan defense for an easy layup to make it a one possession game.
The defensive breakdowns sparked a 12-2 Ohio State run, highlighted by a pair 3-pointers from forward LaQuniton Ross to give Ohio State its first lead, 19-15, midway through the first half.
MSU answered with a quick 6-0 spurt to briefly regain the lead, before a three from forward Deshaun Thomas pushed Ohio State back out in front.
Thomas’ bucket would begin a 9-2 run, giving the Buckeyes their largest lead of the half, 28-23, before MSU closed the half with six straight points, including four from Nix to take the lead into the locker room.
Thomas scored seven of the team’s nine points during the Buckeyes’ rally, before finishing with a game-high 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting, including 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Both teams would combine to shoot 22 3-pointers, while only attempting a mere two free throws between the two squads.