Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Buzzer-beater sinks MSU men's basketball against Ohio State 60-57

February 25, 2024
Senior guard A.J. Hoggard (11) driving the ball towards the basket during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024.
Senior guard A.J. Hoggard (11) driving the ball towards the basket during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024. —
Photo by Donté Smith | The State News

Falling away and with a hand in his face, Ohio State’s Dale Bonner made the shot. 

It was a three-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer that hit nothing but net, sinking Michigan State’s men’s basketball team in a game the Spartans controlled a lot of the way through.

MSU led 32-22 at halftime but couldn’t put the Buckeyes away, falling victim to a crushing 60-57 loss at the hands of late-game tenseness and a storybook shot from Bonner. 

In MSU freshman center Xavier Booker’s first career start, he took advantage of the opportunity, posting seven points, three rebounds and two blocks while looking every bit of the part. Unfortunately for him and the Spartans, Ohio State’s magic wouldn’t come until down the stretch.

MSU forward Malik Hall finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. 

Last Wednesday, Ohio State fired head coach Chris Holtmann after a 14-11 start. The Buckeyes, like many teams that experience the firing of a head coach mid-season, found a sudden burst of inspiration, downing No. 3 Purdue in their first game without Holtmann. 

Ohio State lost to Minnesota on the road four days later, making it even more difficult to scrape NCAA tournament conversations. But, with the added motivation that comes with playing for a new coach combined with their young talent and length, the Buckeyes were always going to be a threat to play spoiler in East Lansing on Sunday. Last season, they did just that in Chicago at the 2023 Big Ten Tournament, upsetting a 4-seed MSU in the quarterfinal as a 13-seed. 

MSU had won eight of its last 10 entering the week, before dropping its third home game of the year in a seven-point loss against Iowa on Tuesday. With that in mind and Booker in the starting lineup, MSU came out with an edge. The Spartans held the Buckeyes to just 7-for-29 shooting from the field and 1-for-10 from behind the arc while knocking down their own shots, leading by 10 at halftime.

Michigan State started 3-for-5 from three-point range as A.J. Hoggard and Malik Hall joined Booker in nailing early triples. Booker’s start was emblematic of both his upside and shortcomings at this point in his career – knocking down a transition three and blocking two shots while giving up multiple dunks at the rim.  

Though Mady Sissoko replaced him at the first media timeout, one thing was clear from his five-minute opening stint: Booker undoubtedly raises the ceiling of this MSU team by stretching the floor more than any of the other big men and protecting the rim. He allows the Spartans to go five-out when on the floor with Hall. Nonetheless, the Big Ten is a physical league. Whether or not Booker sees substantially more minutes moving forward may be matchup-dependent. 

MSU’s Tyson Walker didn’t seem comfortable in the first half, missing the mark on his first three looks. Ohio State also did a good job closing out on him. Still, Walker was active on the defensive end as he poked the ball free several times to disrupt Buckeye possessions. 

Booker checked back in with just under six minutes to play and was again effective, doing his job without the ball on both ends and scoring again off a loose ball underneath the rim. His 12 first-half minutes nearly doubled that of MSU’s other centers. 

With under a minute to play in the first half, Walker drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key over 6'11" Felix Okpara for his first points. The shot was a big one – it gave the Spartans a double-digit lead at 30-20. Then, he beat the buzzer on a driving layup to give MSU a 32-22 lead at halftime. 

Booker started the second half at center and immediately made his presence known, dunking home an alley-oop from Hoggard plus a foul. He had a three-pointer swirl out the next trip down that would’ve taken the roof off the Breslin Center. He was given good looks all game and looked comfortable taking them. 

MSU went cold from the field around the 15-minute mark of the second half as Ohio State crept within six points. But, three straight fast-break buckets for the Spartans put them back up by 12. 

At the under-eight-minute timeout, MSU’s lead was back to six points. OSU’s Zed Key cut that in half after converting an and-one opportunity off an offensive rebound. Okpara scored inside moments later to come within just one point of the Spartans. 

The Spartans couldn’t generate many good looks down the stretch, but sometimes that doesn’t matter when Walker is on. Though he’d only made four of 14, the fifth-year guard got downhill on Okpara and flipped up a left-handed shot off the glass to give MSU some breathing room with a 56-53 lead at 1:28 remaining. 

The Buckeyes scored on their next possession and then got a stop to secure a chance to take the lead in the final seconds. Gayle got fouled by Hoggard, sending him to the line with 11 seconds left.

He made both. 57-56 Ohio State. 

Walker went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line on the other end, tying the game at 57. Then came the shot from Bonner. Heartbreak for the Spartans.

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MSU gets the week off for spring break before returning on the road to battle the conference-leading Purdue Boilermakers. 

The Michigan State and No. 3 Purdue will tip off at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 2 at Mackey Arena. The game will also be aired on FOX. 

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