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MSU men's basketball upset by Ohio State with buzzer-beater, lose fourth game at home this season

February 25, 2024
The Spartans discussing strategy during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024.
The Spartans discussing strategy during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024. —
Photo by Donté Smith | The State News

Freshman forward Xavier Booker was given the opportunity of a lifetime for a freshman when he stepped on the court and got his first-ever collegiate start against an in-conference rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

The moment, however, will forever remain bittersweet for Booker and the Michigan State Spartans after the team was stunned by a walk-off buzzer-beater three-pointer by the Buckeyes to end the game at 60-57.

The game-winner from Ohio State’s Dale Bonner handed the Spartans their second home loss in a row as the Spartans head into their final stretch of the season. The win for the Buckeyes is their first win at MSU since March 2012.

Before the heartbreaking shot from Ohio State, the night had been going fantastic for Booker after he was welcomed to his first-ever start for MSU with a standing ovation from the fans. 

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Freshman forward Xavier Booker (34) taking a layup attempt during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024.

While Booker did not win the tip-off for the Spartans, he won his first-ever stint as a starter after playing for nearly seven minutes in his first stretch. As any freshman would be, Booker looked a bit uncomfortable at first but his teammates did everything they could to get him involved early

His teammates were trying to get him involved but Booker decided to do the work himself on the defensive end, logging his first block in the first three minutes as he sent one out of bounds. The freshman continued to find comfort in the starting lineup, picking up three shots and knocking down one three-pointer before being subbed out at the 13-minute mark. 

However, in the final minutes of Booker’s first stretch as a starter, it looked as if he could keep going, but after the game, the freshman admitted to needing a quick break

“I was definitely tired for sure," Booker said. "I was gassed and definitely needed (a break), but it was fun to be out there and to just play freely and it felt good to have my name called in the starting lineup."

It wasn’t just Booker being inserted into the starting lineup either. Izzo had various new and old lineups including a solo Jaxon Kohler stretch and a couple of minutes of the combination of Mady Sissoko and Carson Cooper

The various lineups ultimately failed to find an exact solution to one of Michigan State's main problems of the night: rebounding. After being tied at 19 rebounds apiece at halftime, the Spartans would fail to keep up with the Buckeyes in rebounding in the second half as they were ultimately out-rebounded 39-33 by the end of the game, with some of the most important rebounds for the Buckeyes coming in the final minutes of the game. 

Another one of the main issues the Spartans had throughout the game was their shooting efficiency. The team's shooting started well but fans were quickly given a reminder of how the Spartans can go cold on some nights. After hitting four of their nine three-pointers in the first half, the Spartans did not make a single three in the second half even though they attempted seven. 

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Graduate Student guard Tyson Walker (2) taking a jump shot during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024.

Two of Michigan State's main scorers, Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins, had an off-night as they went for a combined 6-for-24 on the night. Izzo kept it simple after the game and said that the Spartans simply won’t win when their shooters have a night like they had. 

“Well, it was very disappointing," Izzo said. "(We're) probably not going to win many games if our two shooters go 6-for-24, you know both of them (Jaden and Tyson) struggled."

Walker, who had been having an off-night at this point and was visibly frustrated, somehow still does what he does best as he hit a game-tying free throw with less than six seconds to go. 

Unfortunately for the Spartans, the worst-case scenario happened as Bonner made a run from half court down to the corner. Walker played Bonner near-perfect, making sure not to foul him while still contesting the shot as much as possible

But it did not matter

As the shot went in, Ohio State's bench rushed the court, and what once seemed like a successful experiment with the lineup, quickly turned into an unfortunate moment for the freshman as he finished his first start with seven total points, three rebounds and three blocks. 

After the game, Booker talked about how crazy of a shot it was that left the Spartans deflated inside their home court

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“I mean it was crazy, I couldn’t really do anything but just open my mouth and go 'Wow,'" Booker said. "It was a crazy shot I definitely did not expect that to go in." 

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Senior center Mady Sissoko (22) helping up Graduate Student forward Malik Hall (25) during a game against Ohio State University at the Breslin Student Event Center on Feb. 25, 2024.

While the experiment resulted in a loss, Izzo said that he was happy with Booker’s first performance as a starter and he also talked about what he thinks could come from him in the future

“I love what Booker did, he did a lot of good things,” Izzo said. “That’s what the process is and we’re gonna continue to grow with him and he’s going to be a superstar. I really believe that and he will get bigger and stronger and play more (physically) and hopefully will make some progress still this year."

The Spartans will have nearly an entire week to reflect and prepare for potentially one of their biggest games of the season as they will face Purdue inside of Mackey Arena on Saturday, March 2 at 8 p.m. The game will be aired on television by Fox. 

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