EAST LANSING – More sizzling scoring. More good ball movement. More deep breathing as the opponent returns.
win on graduation day. And a chance to exhale while Michigan State basketball awaits its post-season doom.
AJ Hoggard tied a career-high with 23 points and added seven assists as the Spartans put together a balanced offensive performance and survived an Ohio State hot shot in the second half for an 84-78 win Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center.
MSU (19-11, 11-8 Big Ten) must now wait for the league’s regular season to end on Sunday to see who it faces to open next week’s Big Ten tournament play on Thursday or Friday. The Spartans can still earn a double bye and finish as high as a No. 3 seed and as low as a No. 7 seed.
The elderly also shone. Joey Hauser scored 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting with six rebounds, while Tyson Walker had 15 points and six of 17 assists for the Spartans on 29 baskets. Fellow senior Malik Hall started and finished with 10 points, while sophomore Jaden Akins traded innings, came off the bench and added 13 points, including three-pointers with Hauser.
MSU shot 54.7% overall and 60% hum from depth, making 12-of-20 from 3-point range.
Freshman Bryce Sensabaugh had 21 points and Bruce Thornton scored 20 for Ohio State (13-18, 5-15), which will be the No. 13 seed and open game of the Big Ten tournament on Wednesday. Judge Swing added 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Sean McNeil hit three of Buckeyes’ 11-pointers and scored 11.
With senior day, Izzo went with the veterans as a starter—a four-senior lineup in Walker, Hauser, Hall, and former Jason Whitens.
Hoggard was the only rookie player to wake up Breslin and continue the solid play he showed in the second half on Tuesday at Nebraska.
He came in first hitting Oop’s alley to start the scoring, with Hall knocking him down in his first start since November 18 against Villanova. Hoggard then took a pass into the corner from Walker and made a three-pointer run, followed by a layup. Then the 6-foot-4 point guard made a rebound defensive stop, pushed the pace and dropped the ball for Hall to drain another 3-pointer.
It came as part of a 15-0 run, in which Hauser followed with a pair of buckets, then Trey Holloman hit the third pointer for MSU to take a 17-6 lead in just under eight minutes into the game.
The Spartans defense bottled the Buckeyes early as well, putting them up 2-for-11 starts from the field. They continued shooting hot on the outside, with Hoggard and Hauser connecting before OSU began to recover.
A 7-0 lead pulled the Buckeyes within four on a Sean McNeil three-pointer with 6:39 to go before halftime, and they would continue the pressure by hitting four of their last from deep before halftime.
But MSU got points in combinations from several sources. Hole with 3 other indicators and a bird. Akins with a 3-pointer and the driving layup for a three-point game. Walker with two big buckets as OSU began to gain momentum.
In the first half, the offense was effective and balanced scoring as MSU shot 56.7% overall and hit 8-of-14 from 3-point range. They had 11 assists on 17 field goals, with Hoggard Walker on four. The transition game, which had fallen behind all season, had a 17-2 halftime advantage, including eight points in the final four minutes before halftime for a 43-34 lead.
Finishing through adversity
But Ohio is not going away.
After closing out the first half by taking 10 of their last 15 shots, the Buckeyes picked it up after the break. Sensabaugh drilled 3 consecutive throws to open the second half, and the Buckeyes steadily trailed the Spartans’ lead.
Each time, though, MSU has gone to Walker for an answer. First with a 3-pointer after those Sensabaugh shots cut into a five-point game. again with the drive stalled after OSU pulled within six. Another Walker scored on offense after Hauser’s 3-pointer gave the Spartans an 11-point lead with 11:55 to play.
But the Buckeyes kept clicking, ripping 10-3 with two McNeil 3-pointers and another Thornton to pull within 67-64. Izzo forced a timeout call with 5:28 to play.
Once again, it was Walker’s duty to make the save. He drove to the basket, split two defenders, and scored between a pass. The defense started to get some stops from there, as Hoggard hit two free throws and Hauser lunged into the paint for a bucket.
However, Ohio State bombed the offensive boards to stay within reach, with five in the second half and four of those in the final ten minutes. Shooting 51.6% in the second half, the Buckeyes made 7 of 15 3-point attempts and outscored the Spartans, 17-14, after halftime.
But Hoggard hit two more free throws with 1:44 to play, cut through the fairway and finished in the opposite direction on the left side of the rim for a layup, then buried another pair on the line with 26.9 to play to close out the Buckeyes and the regular season with the Spartans’ fourth straight game scored more. of 80 points in a row.
Hoggard hit 9 of 11 at the free throw line for 15 points in the second half, making 3 of 5 shots.
After Sensabaugh drilled another 3-pointer with 9.4 to play that made it 83-78, Hoggard pressured through and was fouled. That allowed Izzo to get the subs, so Hall, Whitens, Walker, and Hauser all got their time to kiss the Spartan helmet—a grand tradition that came with a win worth the wait.
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