Spartans pick up big win on road over OSU

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even Tom Izzo said he thought the game was won before it started. Well, he didn’t say that exactly, but he did say that the makings of Michigan State’s 10-point upset of Ohio State at Value City Arena on Saturday night began with a question.

Actually, it began with a couple of them.

The first came from senior co-captain and team leader Draymond Green, who asked Izzo if the team could dial it down during Friday’s practice to save energy for Saturday’s game. The second came from Izzo himself, when he invited senior shooting guard Brandon Wood into his office last week for a 90-minute chat about basketball and life and how best to get everything out of both.

Green got Izzo to commit to a lighter workout. Izzo got a promise from Wood to commit to defense. Both played crucial roles in Michigan State’s 58-48 win over Ohio State, a win that snapped Ohio State’s 39-game home winning streak and gave the Spartans a share of the conference lead.

“This stat isn’t on here, (but) where the game was won was in (Friday’s) practice — because I did something I never do: I almost walked through,” said Izzo, “and that was odd for me. I listened to my players. And Draymond Green took care of the hotel, the airplane and the (actual) walk-through (Saturday) morning was the best I’ve had since Louisville in Indianapolis. It was just focused.”

MSU beat Louisville to get to the Final Four in 2009. When asked if he agreed with Izzo’s assessment that the team’s focus and preparation for Saturday matched the regional finals effort, Green said, “Guys were focused in. Guys knew their assignments.”

Green said he saw the signs the day before on the trip to Columbus, and the night before in the hotel. That intensity carried into the game. And though MSU fell behind 9-4 when the Buckeyes made three of the first four shots, the Spartans closed the half on a 31-16 run. Ohio State managed 26 percent from the field — for the game.

Everyone contributed. Much of the defensive effort was obvious — the way Adreian Payne roamed the paint, altered shots and helped to frustrate OSU’s Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger missed 10 of his 15 shots. When Payne wasn’t playing above him, Derrick Nix was bodying him. Travis Trice, Keith Appling and Wood often dug down on Sullinger, too, cheating off their wing when he put the ball on the floor to create chaos.

It worked. Sullinger turned the ball over 10 times.

“I’ve got a lot of things we are decent. I’ve got one thing we are great at,” Izzo said of leadership and chemistry. “And that probably helped us win this game today.”

Izzo said his team gave its best defensive effort of the season. He said the same of Payne. The sophomore center also scored a team-high and career-high 15 points.

“I was proud of Adreian,” Izzo said. “He’s been through a lot with his grandma and everything. He really did a (heck of a) job.”

Payne’s grandmother died last year. She had an enormous role in raising him. Perhaps that was one reason he picked Value City Arena to play his best game of his career, because the game was also a homecoming — he grew up in Dayton.

It was Payne who hit an off-balance, fading bank shot with 4 minutes left and MSU clinging to a six-point lead.

The Spartans don’t get the lead in the first place, however, without the defensive effort of Wood, who hounded Ohio State’s best shooter, William Buford, into a 2-for-12 night.

Izzo said Wood made the commitment in East Lansing during their long talk last week.

“The greatest thing in coaching or parenting is when you give a kid a challenge and he doesn’t sulk,” Izzo said. “I love when people reach down and meet challenges.”

He could say the same thing of his entire team.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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