After Ohio State ended the first half on a 12-0 run, Value City Arena was buzzing. The energy never really left the building from all those years of Thad Matta success. It just laid dormant…waiting.
For the first time since a November contest with Duke, Michigan State, the top ranked team in the nation, was on their heels. Facing their largest halftime deficit of the season, the Spartans looked to bounce back in the second half.
The Buckeyes started with possession. C.J. Jackson swung the ball to Kaleb Wesson after a high screen, who took one bounce toward Kam Williams for a routine dribble hand off. But Williams back cut hard, and Wesson hit him in stride. Williams flashed open to the basket, assaulting the rim with a one-handed slam.
The crowd, built up with years of tension induced by lackluster play, was frenzied. Ohio State never looked back.
The Buckeyes have spent the early part of this season as a quietly impressive squad. With a new coach and a bevy of impact players lost, Ohio State was largely picked to finish near the bottom of the league. Instead, Chris Holtmann has his team playing some of the best basketball in the conference.
With the No. 1 team in the country heading into Columbus, Holtmann ensured Sunday afternoon would not be any different.
Michigan State is a team that kills with speed and athleticism. Getting into open space in transition and slashing to the bucket or hitting open threes has led to a lethal Spartan attack. Tom Izzo’s squad falls in the top 10 nationally in terms of offensive efficiency at 118.6, per KenPom.
How could Ohio State possibly exploit that?
-High Percentage Shooting
For starters, the Buckeyes are one of the better teams in the country shooting inside the three-point line. On the season, they are hitting two-point field goals at nearly a 56 percent clip, good for 36th overall.
It certain helps having Keita Bates-Diop, who leads the conference in points, and is fourth in player efficiency rating. Bates-Diop finished with a career high 32 points on 12-for-21 shooing.
If your shots are falling, it is hard for the opponent to run the break. Against Michigan State, the Buckeyes shot 52.5 percent overall from the floor.
Turnovers are the easiest way to kick start transition offense, and good teams look to turn takeaways into quick points. In addition to making high percentage shots, Ohio State effectively limited their turnovers. The team finished with just six giveaways, their lowest total of the season. Conversely, Michigan State coughed up 12.
-Controlling the Half-court
Limiting transition opportunities for the Spartans was only half the battle for Holtmann and the Buckeyes. The team did a tremendous job of taking smart shots, protecting the ball, and sprinting back on defense. But Ohio State still had to defend in the half-court.
The plan was simple – when Nick Ward touches the ball, double him. Hard.
Ohio State bullied Ward all game, hitting him with physical double teams every time he got the ball on the interior. He finished with a season low three points, attempting just one shot the entire game.
The Buckeyes will look to carry their momentum into Thursday, where they will host the Maryland Terrapins. Tipoff is at 7 PM ET and will be aired on ESPN2.