Buford Lifts Buckeyes Bounce-Back Win over Spartans
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a chance to get their season back on track, the Michigan State Spartans gave a tremendous effort on the road Tuesday night against No. 2 Ohio State.
William Buford’s was just a little bit better.
With star freshman Jared Sullinger saddled by foul trouble for much of the game, Buford carried the Buckeyes with 23 points in a 71-61 win over Tom Izzo’s Spartans.
“We did just about everything I wanted to do except we turned over the ball and didn’t get to the free throw line,” an optimistic Izzo said after the game.
“We did about as good of a job on Jared Sullinger as we could tonight. I’m most proud of our three big guys.”
The trio of Garrick Sherman, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix helped limit Sullinger to just 11 points and two rebounds in 27 minutes, but the Buckeyes got 64 points from their perimeter players. That includes the 23 from Buford, along with 12 apiece from David Lighty and Jon Diebler.
“They played really physical down low. They played close to the basket and made it tough down there. It was some great basketball on their part,” Sullinger said.
“I think on any given night, anyone can lead the team in scoring. That’s just how great I think this team is right now.”
The Buckeyes (25-1, 12-1 Big Ten) were coming off their first loss of the season over the weekend at Wisconsin, and they were tested for 35 minutes by Michigan State (14-11, 6-7) before pulling away for a 10-point victory.
They forced the Spartans into 19 turnovers, but gave up 44 points in the paint, including a high number of uncontested baskets over the first 20 minutes. Michigan State shot 62.5-percent from the floor in the first half, but the Buckeyes still led 35-34 at the break.
“I think the key for us in the second half was just to get more stops. We were scoring fine on the offensive end,” said Diebler, who knocked down two huge threes in the second half.
“For us to be up at the half with the shooting percentage they had, it was incredible. In the second half we just got stops when we really needed them.”
The biggest defensive play of the game came late in the second half. The Buckeyes were clinging to a 58-53 lead with just under six minutes to play when Sherman whipped a fastball out of the paint and back across mid-court.
It looked like the ball was going to roll right off the court before OSU point guard Aaron Craft made an improbable hustle play to track it down near the baseline.
Craft scored the basket, drew the foul and hit the free throw to give Ohio State a 61-53 lead.
“That was a heck of a play and a sign of someone wanting to win no matter what,” Diebler said of the young freshman.
“Aaron doesn’t take plays off and that one led to a big bucket for us.”
From there, the Buckeyes made 10 of their last 12 free throws, including three on one trip after Draymond Green was hit with a technical at the 1:42 mark of the second half. Craft went 3-of-4 at the line to give the Buckeyes a 10-point lead at 69-59.
The Buckeyes finished 23-of-29 from the charity stripe, with Dallas Lauderdale, the team’s shakiest free throw shooter, icing the game with a pair in the final 1:14.
Point guard Kalin Lucas led the Spartans with 14 points and five rebounds, while both Green and Payne added 10. Senior Durrell Summers went scoreless in 16 foul-plagued minutes, and Michigan State got only eight minutes out of Delvon Roe, who did not start the game because of a knee injury.
“People from Ohio should be proud of him,” Izzo said of the Cleveland native.
With the win, the Buckeyes are now 2.5 games ahead of Wisconsin and Purdue, while MSU falls into a fifth-place tie with Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State.
Game Play by Play
Turning Point of the Game
Season Stats Year to Date
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