Ohio State lost an epic Big Ten tournament final 68-64 to Michigan State on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
The reward for the Spartans (27-7) was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament go to along with a regular season conference title they shared with Ohio State and Michigan.
“This game came down – as we thought it would – to making big plays,” said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, whose team beat the Spartans 72-70 in East Lansing a week earlier to forge the three-way tie atop the final league standings. “Like last Sunday, we made the plays, we made the shots. Today they did.”
Michigan State emerged from a competitive first half with a 34-32 lead thanks to a late 7-0 run started by a Travis Trice three-pointer that put them ahead 30-29.
Draymond Green followed with a putback and Keith Appling added a fastbreak layup to give the Spartans a five-point advantage, the largest of the half for either team.
A crowd of 17,125 attended the championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, brining the four-day total to a record 107,737.
Ohio State struck back with a layup by point guard Aaron Craft and a free throw by guard William Buford to finish out the scoring in the half.
Buford’s trip to the charity stripe was the result of a technical foul on Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. With 30 seconds left in the half, Izzo ventured too far onto the court to argue Deshaun Thomas had fouled Green while knocking away a rebound under the Ohio State basket. Craft caught the loose ball and laid it in before any Spartan could react.
Ohio State looked to be building momentum nearly six minutes into the second half after Thomas hit a three to make it 52-45, but Michigan State responded to its largest deficit of the game with a barrage of three-pointers in a 17-5 spurt that put them ahead 62-57.
Wood was the main perpetrator as he hit a pair of treys, and Austin Thornton added another.
Much of it came with Green on the bench after he tried to take a charge from Craft and fell hard on his back under the basket as Craft pitched it out to Thomas for his trey.
Ohio State center Jared Sullinger scored inside with 3:27 to pull the Buckeyes back within two at 64-62, but that was as close as they would get.
Trailing 64-62, Ohio State had two chances to go ahead near the two-minute mark, but Thomas and then Lenzelle Smith Jr. missed three-pointers.
Green answered with a trey from the left wing as the shot clock was running down. That put the Spartans back in the driver’s seat for the last 90 seconds.
Buford had two chances to pull the Buckeyes within two in the final minute but missed a pair of threes, one from each wing, and the Spartans celebrated their third Big Ten tournament title.
“We just didn't execute this game and we didn't play to our best ability this game, but fortunately, we have another day of practice,” said Sullinger, who finished with 18 a team-high 18 points. “Now we're going into a tournament where it's just one and done. You don't know what's going to happen the next day so you just gotta give it your all.”
Buford and Thomas had 11 points apiece for Ohio State and posted identical shooting lines of 4 for 12 from the field. Thomas was 1 for 6 from three-point range while Buford went 0 for 4.
“Down the stretch there we had some what appeared to be good looks, and you needed to make those,” Matta said. “Then you look Draymond Green hit that big 3. Deshaun was right there on the challenge and it goes in.
“We had the ball on the rim a couple times, you thought they were going down, and we missed a couple free-throws where it could have shifted the momentum for us, and we just we didn't get it done.”
Smith and Craft each totaled 10 points with Craft adding eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Green finished with 12 points and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He joined Wood, Thomas, Sullinger and Minnesota guard Andre Hollins on the all-tournament team.
Though Green had the better tournament overall, Wood was the man of the match against Ohio State. The senior transfer notched a game-high 21 points on 8 for 14 shooting. he was 4 for 8 from beyond the arc. Center Derrick Nix added 10 points and two rebounds for the Spartans, who also got eight points from Thornton.
“He was feeling it from behind the line there and hit some difficult shots,” Matta said of Wood. “We didn't get matched up quite as quickly as we needed to.”