Ellis III, bench play lead Spartans to win over Buckeyes
From 16:29 left in the first half to 12:06, Ellis shot his bow and arrow and scored five straight 3-pointers for 15 points.
Head coach Tom Izzo said Ellis asked to be taken out and he cooled off for the remainder of the game. Ellis added one more 3-point field goal to his total, ending the game with 18 points, 6-for-11 from the floor and 6-for-9 from behind the 3-point line.
“Well, it’s funny, because I started my pre-game speech out with ... When I got in this morning and started doing some work, I walked into our video room and heard the ball bounce,” Izzo said. “I look down and I see Alvin Ellis shooting with one of my GA’s. And that’s how I started out my speech because you know, that didn’t happen a lot in the last three years.”
On average, Ellis plays just more than 16 minutes per game and scores six points per game. His 39.7 percent average from 3-point range ranks No. 4 on the team, 0.1 percent behind fifth-year senior guard Eron Harris and 0.3 percent behind freshman forward Miles Bridges.
“After the first one went in, I was just going to keep shooting it until I missed,” Ellis said. “My teammates did a great job of finding me in transition. It’s really fun. When things are falling like that, you can’t do anything but have fun out there. Everybody is all hyped up and the crowd gets into it. There’s nothing like it.”
Ellis has shown sparks of success and scoring proficiency this season.
In an overtime win at Minnesota, Ellis scored 20 points with six rebounds against the Golden Gophers. In the Spartans’ next game, a home matchup against Northwestern, Ellis scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
“Alvin has been putting in the work, so I really think he deserves this,” Bridges said. “He’s just going to continue to get better. To me, he’s a pro player. He’s smart, he can shoot, he can do everything on the court. I’m just happy that he had a big game today.”
Izzo pointed out the success of the role players to provide key sparks for MSU. On three separate occasions for the Spartans, they captured and lost a double-digit lead. While MSU allowed Ohio State to get over the hump in the first matchup, this time the Spartans were prepared.
“I think the guys knew that we had a grind it out game,” Izzo said. “The locker room, they felt good about that. That’s how it’s going to be for us. We’re not gorgeous, we’re just valentines. Nobody probably got any cards on our team. We’re not the darlings of Valentine’s Day, we’re just the grinders.”
Following two free throws by Ohio State senior guard Marc Loving and a layup by junior forward Jae’Sean Tate, MSU’s lead began to slip once again. Freshman guard Cassius Winston and sophomore Kyle Ahrens were determined to keep MSU ahead.
Dishing out one of his nine assists, Winston probed the Buckeye defense, finding Ahrens wide open in the corner. With a quick flick of the wrist, MSU was back up by 12 points.
With the lack of size, foul trouble situations and revolving door lineups, MSU has relied on its bench to step up in times of need.
Against Ohio State, the Spartans outscored the Buckeyes in bench points, 29-20. It allowed Bridges to have an off day — by his standards.
Bridges finished the game with his sixth double-double of the season, 17 points and 11 rebounds.
“I thought Miles had a very average game and I told him that after the game,” Izzo said.
MSU will hit the road on Feb. 18 to face the No. 16 Purdue Boilermakers (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten).
The game will tipoff at 4 p.m. and be televised on ESPN.