Michigan St falls into 3-way tie for Big Ten title
Michigan State’s team posed for pictures – without a smile seen
– in front of a Big Ten championship banner during a postgame
ceremony to honor its seniors.
The fifth-ranked Spartans needed one more win to truly
William Buford made a high-arcing jumper from the top of the key
with 1 second left, lifting No. 10 Ohio State to a 72-70 win over
Michigan State on Sunday that forged a three-way tie for the
”I wish I didn’t have to have this press conference,” said
Spartans coach Tom Izzo, looking and sounding somber. ”You just
can’t express into words how disappointed I am and I can’t express
how proud I am of what we accomplished.”
To make matters worse, though, Michigan State lost standout
freshman Branden Dawson to a left knee injury in the first half. He
will miss the rest of the season.
Michigan State (24-7, 13-5) started the season unranked and
surged near the top of The Associated Press poll with a seven-game
winning streak that created a two-game lead in the Big Ten with two
games left in the regular season.
But they lost at Indiana on Tuesday and blew a 15-point lead
against Ohio State, forcing the Spartans to settle for sharing the
crown – their third in four years – with Ohio State and
”No excuses,” Izzo said. ”We just didn’t get it done.”
Michigan State senior Draymond Green said the latest setback
rivaled the one he experienced in the 2009 NCAA final.
”It’s up there with the toughest,” he said.
Green had a chance to put the Spartans ahead in his final home
game with 32 seconds left, but missed a long fadeaway from the
”We weren’t trying to get that,” Izzo acknowledged. ”But it
was such a meat market in there – both ways. It was probably the
most physical game I’ve ever been involved with – both ways.”
Just before the buzzer, Green had a heave that missed the
Buford’s game-winning shot made a once-raucous arena nearly
silent and gave a group of people elsewhere in the state a reason
to shout with joy.
The Buckeyes (25-6, 13-5) earned a share of their third straight
conference championship – and fifth in seven years – with the
Spartans and No. 13 Michigan.
The Wolverines, who won their first Big Ten title since 1986,
watched their rivals play from the school’s basketball facility in
Ann Arbor after winning at Penn State earlier in the day.
”It was silent the whole time (Buford’s shot) was in the air,”
said Michigan guard Trey Burke, who is from Columbus, Ohio. ”Once
it went in, everybody just flooded the hallway, jumping up and
Michigan State will be the top-seeded team in the Big Ten
tournament, which begins Thursday in Indianapolis. Michigan will be
No. 2 and Ohio State No. 3.
Buford scored just four points when Michigan State ended Ohio
State’s 39-game home winning streak last month. He returned the
favor with his game-winning shot and by scoring 19 of his 25 points
in the second half, handing the Spartans their first loss at home
Green seemed too fired up about playing in his last home game,
shooting a long airball on his first attempt from the baseline and
finishing 6 of 18 from the field with 19 points, 12 rebounds and a
game-high four turnovers.
Brandon Wood scored 15 points and Derrick Nix had 11 off the
bench, while Keith Appling was held to two of his 11 points after
halftime for the Spartans.
Even with Michigan State’s students on spring break, there was
big-game buzz in the Breslin Center and the fans had plenty to
stand and cheer about when the Spartans went on a 12-0 run to take
a 19-7 lead.
”It was looking pretty bleak,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta
Michigan State led 24-9 midway through the first half, then had
a setback that might linger as a problem heading into the Big Ten
tournament this week and the NCAA tournament the following
Dawson injured his left knee with 10:16 left in the first half.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward, who ranks third on the team in
scoring, second in rebounds and perhaps first in athletic ability,
rubbed his left knee while his leg was propped up on a chair and
later walked gingerly to the locker room.
After the game, Michigan State said Dawson has a torn ACL and
will miss the rest of the season.
Jared Sullinger missed his first five shots and was 2 of 10 in
the first half, but stayed active and aggressive enough to make all
four of his free throws and to score eight points to help Ohio
State trail by just nine at halftime.
The Buckeyes scored the first six points of the second half and
went ahead 52-51 with 9:53 left to take their first lead since
scoring the game’s first two points.
For the rest of the game, each team took a turn with a small
lead, exchanging shots and banging bodies in a test that should
prepare both for the rest of the month. In the second half, there
were nine lead changes and seven ties.
”This is about as high a level game as you can see,” Matta
said. ”I’m happy we were on this side of it.”
When it was Izzo’s turn to address the crowd that stayed to
celebrate his seniors, he vowed that the Spartans would bounce back
at the Big Ten tournament.
”We’re going to go win our championship back,” he said.
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed
to this report.
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