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2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament

 
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Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship Game

 

 

It was hard to predict what might happen on a specific level, but it was definitively going to be a fistfight to finish in Indianapolis, and the level of quality did not disappoint. In a well-played grudge match that provided first-rate drama and entertainment, the Michigan State Spartans did manage to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes by four points in the third meeting between the two schools this season. The two teams split their prior meetings, making this a decisive third game. Michigan State won Big Ten bragging rights after sharing the regular season league title with Ohio State and the Michigan Wolverines.

As the first half was playing out the look of this game was that it was going to be a buzzer-beater the whole way. It seemed impossible for either team to dominate the other and no significant lead was ever established by the Spartans or the Buckeyes. Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger did have an unusual half in that Michigan State managed to frustrate him so badly that in the limited nine minutes of playing time he got in the first half, he scored only four points and gained two fouls. The second half went much better for him as he did end up finishing the game with 18 points and nine rebounds. The Buckeyes as a team had all five starters scoring in double figures, but received only four points off the bench.

 

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That level of bench production wasn't enough to overcome the great team play of the Spartans' pass-first approach (16 assists) and a deep bench rotation (three players totaling 17 points) that MSU coach Tom Izzo was using. The Spartans' Brandon Wood led the way in scoring with a team- and game-high total of 21 points. Wood got lots of help starting with teammate Draymond Green, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. Moreover, all of the players that Michigan State put on the floor scored at least one basket if not more.

While the game clock was running down in this amazing contest at the end of the Big Ten Tournament there was still no way to predict what the final outcome would be. Then, in the final minutes, Ohio State showed signs of looking tired - not beaten, but slowing down around the rim and not being able to get up and down the floor quite as fast or efficient as it had been doing during the first 35 minutes of the game. Add in the fact that key players from the Buckeyes such as Sullinger and William Buford missed their shots down the stretch in the closing minutes, and one can conclude that the Buckeyes lost their margin for error as the clock wound down. Key Spartan players like Green, along with Austin Thornton, were able to stay the course, making just enough of their free throws to keep it a two possession game down to the finish, carving out a 68-64 lead with 12 seconds to go. Those free throws were all it took to make sure the Spartans would get the win, which propelled them to a No. 1 seed in the West Region and allowed Michigan State to be seen as the best team in the Big Ten this season.

 

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer