Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spartans Brawl, take down Buckeyes

Bringin' the Payne! A career game for the sophomore center. (AP photo)
A 39-game home winning streak snapped. The number 3 team in the country goes down at home. A statement type win. Just a typical Saturday evening for Tom Izzo and Co. The Spartans handled the Ohio State Buckeyes, 58-48, today at the Value City Center in Columbus earning their 20th win of the season and grabbing a share of the B1G Conference lead. 

The Spartans were able to wear down the Buckeyes from the opening tip. The Spartans imposed their physicality on the Buckeyes. Shutting them down in the paint and forcing them to take hurried shots from deep.  The Buckeyes shot 26% from the field and were held almost 30 points below their average. The defensive game plan was simple, be the bully especially down low. William Buford and DeShaun Thomas were non-factors shooting a combined 4 for 24, thanks to the tough man to man defense from Brandon Wood and Draymon Green. The Spartan bigs, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, were able to establish a physical defensive presence against Jared Sullinger using double teams from the guards to strip the ball on many occasions. The Spartans bumped and swatted at Sullinger down low. It appeared that the defensive play was getting to Sullinger who committed 10 of the Buckeye's 15 turnovers.

Despite missing open shots early the Spartans were able to control the game and build a 10 point lead at half. You just never know who it's going to be but with this Michigan State team there are multiple players who will step up in big moments. Andreian Payne got off to a great start when he hit a open 18 foot jumper from the baseline. Payne continued to be aggressive around the basket and ended the first half with 11 points. Payne ended the game going 6 for 6, scoring a career-high 15 points and grabbing 4 rebounds to go along with 2 blocks. Izzo was equally as impressed with his sophomore center.

"I don't know if it's because he's from Ohio or him and Jared played together in AAU ball, but Adreian did play," Izzo said. "As Day-Day (Draymond Green) said after, that was his best game maybe his whole career if you look at all the things he did and the big shot he hit with his left hand late, and the (three) offensive rebounds.

The steady performances from Draymond Green and Keith Appling were equally as important. Green, 12 points and 9 rebounds, went down to the block in the first half and was key to the Spartans grabbing a double digit lead. Appling had a great challenge in going against Buckeye point guard Aaron Kraft who smothered him for most of the game causing the sophomore to turn it over 7 times. Despite some struggles, Appling made some tough shots on the offensive end scoring 14 points and came up with some key steals defensively. Branden Dawson failed to continue his streak of 5 straight games scoring in double digits, but his presences was felt on the offensive glass where he was able to extend several Spartan possessions.

The road victory gives the Spartans another notch in their RPI belt. The Buckeyes are as good as anyone in the country, but saying that means that Izzo may have a even more special team then he may have anticipated. Still, you have to wonder what kind of ceiling this team has as they get better and surpass expectations more and more.  

After the game Izzo was still quick to acknowledge the Buckeyes who they face again at home on March 4th. “I don’t feel any different than I felt a month ago, or six months ago: Ohio State’s the best team in the league,” he said. “But on this given day we were able to get them.”

This game certainly will turn a few heads, but there are still plenty of tests a head of the Spartans starting with a home game this Thursday against Wisconsin.

B1G Conference Standings

#12 Michigan State9-320-5
#3 Ohio State9-321-4
#25 Michigan8-418-7
#22 Wisconsin8-419-6
#23 Indiana7-619-6
Penn State3-1011-15

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