A wild night of Big Ten basketball on Thursday has set the stage for a wild final 10 days of the regular season as teams jockey for top seeds in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, and some teams fight just for an invitation to the big dance.
That's where Michigan State found itself as the clock struck midnight last night. The Spartans erased a nine-point lead and beat No. 4-ranked Ohio State 71-67 in East Lansing. It was the Spartans' second-straight win in four days against a top-five team, something that's never been done before in school history.
The Spartans found their way last Saturday in Bloomington, and a huge second half that led to a win against Indiana has carried over this week. Suddenly, the Spartans are now 13-9 overall and 7-9 in the Big Ten, and their resume now contains these two massive wins this week.
Junior forward Aaron Henry, the Indianapolis native, took control of this game for Michigan State, making two critical free throws and draining a pull-up jumper with 1:06 left in the game. He then helped seal the win when he found Joshua Langford for another basket in the final minute .
to help MSU rally from nine-point second-half deficit to stun No. 5 Ohio State, 71-67, on Thursday night at Breslin Center.
The loss was devastating for Ohio State, which has now lost twice this week and has fallen to 18-6 overall and 12-6 in the league. They were a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the loss Sunday to Michigan followed by this defeat will probably change that.'
More immediately, that sixth Big Ten loss now ties them with Iowa and Purdue. The Buckeyes play Iowa on Sunday, and they now have to worry about the Boilermakers in the standings but Ohio State has lost twice to Purdue this year and lose the tiebreaker.
Iowa lost Thursday night as well, falling to Michigan 79-57 in a game that completely got away from the Hawkeyes in the second half. They also struggled to make shots, with Joe Wieskamp (1-for-5) and Jordan Bohannon (2-for-6) having a hard time to get clean looks.
Luka Garza, the nation's top scorer, finished with just 16 points. He went 6-for-19 from the field, often appearing to rush his shots in trying to get around Michigan's 7-foot center, Hunter Dickinson.
“I was working for position. I was able to create good shots, but they were just rolling out on me,” Garza said. “Those are shots I normally make, easy shots for me, shots I practice all the time. There was no shot out there I felt like I couldn’t make.”
Michigan is now 17-1 overall and 12-1 in America's toughest league. They've still got a busy finish – four games in eight days starting Saturday, against Indiana. No. 5 and two games with the suddenly red-hot Michigan State Spartans.
They do have a three-game lead though, and show no signs of slowing down. Beating an Iowa team that had won four straight by 22 points was impressive.
There were two other Big Ten games Thursday. Illinois was forced to play without leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu (broken nose) but had no issues in beating Nebraska 86-70. Center Kofi Cockburn picked up the slack, scoring 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting from both the field and the free throw line.
Northwestern finally broke its 13-game losing streak, beating Minnesota 67-59 in Minneapolis. It was a devastating loss for the Gophers (13-11, 6-11 in the Big Ten), who were teetering on the NCAA Tournament before the game and now might be done for sure. The Gophers shot just 14.8 percent (4-for-27) from three.
This Michigan State run is likely hurting Minnesota's NCAA bid chances, too. The same might be true for Indiana, who needs to win down the stretch against Michigan, Michigan State and/or Purdue.
Purdue has a huge game on Friday night at Penn State, and after Thursday's carnage, it really opens up a door for them. Here's how to watch: CLICK HERE