EAST LANSING – Michigan State is playing its most memorable basketball of the season.
The Spartans are forcing their way into the NCAA tournament with physical/mental toughness alongside loads of energy.
MSU is now 7-9 in conference play, and as the season winds down, they have done something incredibly unique; finding a new identity days before March.
Part of that renewed sense of self is because of Aaron Henry; the junior forward took over at point guard against OSU, making a pair of free-throws and draining a pull-up jumper with a minute to play. Then he set up Joshua Langford, the Spartans lone senior, for another bucket to help Michigan State comeback from a nine-point deficit and beat No. 5 Ohio State, 71-67.
"I thought they were more physical, played with more force than we did, made a few more plays down the stretch, so give them credit," OSU head coach Chris Holtmann said in the postgame presser.
Henry, an Indiana native, has adopted a one-day at a time approach but has also preached leadership and togetherness.
"These juniors and seniors are playing for a lot, and I give Aaron credit; he was getting tired," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told reporters in a videoconference. "We rode him like a horse, and he answered the bell."
Despite playing at least 33 minutes in each of MSU's previous three victories, he refuses to let anything bother him, fatigue or otherwise.
"I think I spun, and he came and trapped me, and I jammed my finger. I did something to it, and it started to bother me, so I just taped it," Henry said. "It's not stopping nothing. I'm good, I'll play if I have one finger. It doesn't matter."
Michigan State wasn't always this physical, and Izzo's indecisiveness concerning the rotation might have cost the Spartans a trip to the big dance.
Yet, MSU isn't doing it with Henry and Joshua Langford alone.
"I thought every guy that played, from Rocket in the second half was better, to just every guy – every guy did something. Malik Hall did something; Marcus was very good; Kithier gave us five good minutes," said Izzo. "I mean, those don't seem like a lot of minutes to some people, but they do to me, and I appreciate it."
The Spartans will need everyone to finish this season, but the committee would be hard-pressed to leave MSU at home in March; the resume is too good after this week.
But staying the course remains a top priority.
"It doesn't change the recipe; we will continue to take it one day at a time. We can't amount to anything other than that and just continue to get closer and continue to head into this day tomorrow on off day with film and come with an open mind, and yeah, we just beat two top 5 teams, but where can we get better," Henry said. "What can we do to change these things, and where can we grow. We have to continue to be hungry, never satisfied."
Tell us what you think in the comment section below.
Want the latest breaking MSU news delivered straight to your email for FREE? Sign up for the DAILY Spartan Nation newsletter when you CLICK THE MAGAZINE ICON at the top left of the page or the FOLLOW button back on the main page. Don't miss any of the latest up to the second updates on Michigan State Sports when you follow on Twitter @HondoCarpenter @McLainGrant1