Sunday, April 21, 2024

Ohio State's offense withers in the face of Michigan State’s defense

February 12, 2023

Michigan State basketball beat Ohio State 62-21 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. MSU forward Joey Hauser recorded 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists while MSU's defense stifled OSU in Sunday's game.

On a quiet Super Bowl Sunday in Columbus, Michigan State held Ohio State to just 14 points in the first half and 41 points by the end of the second half. Yet again, MSU’s defense had its fingerprints all over a gritty, ugly win over a conference opponent. 

From start to finish, OSU just couldn’t seem to generate its own shots against the Spartans. The Buckeyes shot 28% from the field (17-60) and turned over the ball eight times with MSU scoring 14 points off those turnovers. Michigan State stuck to its defensive assignments, well aware of who Ohio State likes to run its offense through. 

Even forward Brice Sensabaugh, the star freshman averaging over 16 points a game, failed to hit double-digit points. Senior guard Sean McNeil’s 10 points led the team. 

“I feel like it's the coaches that really did a good job,” senior guard Tyson Walker said. “Gave us the scouting report on what people like to do. We did a real good job sticking to it.”

To be fair, that impressive defensive performance wasn’t all Michigan State. It was helped along by a godawful showing from Ohio State’s offense. 

At times, it looked like OSU was playing a pick-up basketball game. The Buckeyes air-balled jumpers, had three-point shots glancing harmlessly off the glass, failing to even touch the rim and at one point even air-balled a layup. It was ugly. 

From top to bottom, Michigan State’s entire roster did its job. Even sophomore guard Pierre Brooks, who has been often criticized by Head Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo for poor defensive play.

 “Pierre didn’t make a shot, but he played way better defense than probably he’s ever played since he’s been here,” Izzo said. “I think he felt good about that.”

Another great defensive afternoon, another hard-to-watch win. As the Big Ten season continues to wind down, that seems to be a trend for the team. 

“We’re going to be a good defensive team,” sophomore guard Jaden Akins said. “We know if we get stops then we’re going to have a good chance to win games. I feel like it’s definitely an emphasis.”

Just last week, Michigan State won a similarly ugly game against Maryland, holding the Terrapins under 60 points and doing just enough on offense. When MSU can’t really find rhythm, its defense has proven that it can still squeak out a win. 

“Allowing the team to not really score - it always feels good,” Walker said. “But if we could’ve made some more shots it would’ve been even better.”

That’s not to say the offense was poor against Ohio State. While the Spartans put up just 62 points against the Buckeyes, they were efficient and scored when they needed to. Each time OSU came within striking distance, Michigan State put together a dominating run and rebuilt a comfortable lead. 

Take, for example, an OSU run as the second half approached the midway point. After a pretty one-sided end to the first half, Ohio State had finally found some rhythm to open the second. The Buckeyes slowly chopped away at MSU’s lead, eventually bringing it within five points less than six minutes in. 

However, graduate student forward Joey Hauser responded with a triple, and after a quick field goal for the Buckeyes, MSU went on an 8-0 run and regained total control of the game. It was all over for Ohio State after that; Michigan State’s offense slowly added to the lead and the defense refused to allow another smooth stretch from the opponents. 

Michigan State's offense has struggled for consistency all season, but the defense is proving to be a constant for the squad (save for when the opponent has a 7-foot-4-inch giant). With the end of the season approaching, MSU defense is proving to be the difference-maker in those Big Ten rock fights that seem to happen with frequency. 

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