COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Michigan State had been here before—overtime, away from home, with a game teetering on the brink.
Just like before, the Spartans reached down for a little extra.
Drew Neitzel hit a runner and two free throws in the final 44 seconds of the second overtime to lead No. 14 Michigan State to a 62-59 victory over No. 19 Ohio State on Sunday night.
“I told them in the huddle that we played Gonzaga and Arizona—we played all those overtime games and we’ve earned the right to win the game,” coach Tom Izzo said, referring to his team’s games against ranked teams in the Maui Invitational last November. “They looked back at me and said, ‘Damn right we did.”’
Even though the game featured two of the Big Ten’s top three offenses, both played physical, hands-on defense.
Paul Davis, who scored 18 points for the Spartans (14-4, 2-2), cemented the lead with two free throws with 11 seconds left.
The Buckeyes’ Jamar Butler then missed a 3-pointer and Matt Sylvester—who had earlier hit two big 3s to pull his team back—failed on a short follow in the final seconds. Davis rebounded for the Spartans, raising his arm in celebration while Izzo and his staff hugged on the sideline.
“Even the officials looked at me before the game and said this is special,” Izzo said. “It was a big win.”
The victory gave the Spartans a split in a grueling conference start against four ranked teams—three on the road. They lost at Illinois and Wisconsin and beat Indiana at home.
“They’ve been in a lot of games like that,” Sylvester said. “They’re very tough mentally and physically. I think it reflects on the character of Tom Izzo.”
Shannon Brown led Michigan State, which has won its last four trips to Columbus, with 20 points. Davis had 12 rebounds, while Matt Trannon had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Maurice Ager, averaging 21 points a game, mustered just two on 1-of-11 shooting.
Terence Dials led Ohio State (12-2, 2-2) with 19 points and 10 rebounds, with Sylvester adding 17 points on 4-of-6 shooting behind the arc.
The Buckeyes’ losses have come by two and three points to ranked teams.
“It’s not a game that makes or breaks our season,” coach Thad Matta said. “Just like any win or any loss, you have to look at it quickly and move on. We have to find a way to get back.”
The Buckeyes were hurt when leading scorer Je’Kel Foster fouled out early in the second overtime. He had an off shooting night with just eight points— almost half his average—but he had nine rebounds, three assists and didn’t have a turnover in 40 minutes.
“It killed us,” Matta said of the loss of Foster.
Ohio State forced the first overtime by scoring the final four points—a jumper by Butler with 5:54 left and a sweeping left-handed hook by Dials with 34 seconds left. Ager misfired over Foster’s tight defense with a second left.
The Spartans failed to score in the final 7:20 of regulation. The Buckeyes managed just two baskets in the last 8:40 as the teams traded body blocks and bruises.
In the first overtime, Ohio State trailed 50-48 before Sylvester rebounded in traffic and muscled the ball back in with 15 seconds left.
The Spartans hurried the ball down the court before calling a timeout. With the capacity crowd roaring, Davis put up a shot that missed the mark and Ager tipped it. The ball bounced twice before caroming away as the buzzer sounded.
“I thought we had it won a couple of times and let it slip away,” Izzo said.
In the second overtime, Trannon, a wide receiver on the football team, scored the Spartans’ first four points, with Brown hitting a pull-up jumper for a 56-53 lead. Sylvester, the hero of Ohio State’s stunning upset of No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Illinois in last year’s final regular-season game, countered with a 3-pointer for the Buckeyes to tie it.
With 44 seconds left, Neitzel drove the lane and banked in a shot with a defender draped on his back. Sullinger missed at the other end before Neitzel was fouled with 17 seconds left and hit both to make it 60-56.
Sylvester hit an NBA-length 3 with 12 seconds left to cut the lead to one, but Davis closed the scoring with his two foul shots.
“Both teams played hard. Both teams played great defense,” Dials said. “Michigan State just made more plays at the end to win the game. It was a battle.”
The win was a flashback of sorts for the Spartans.
“I’m really excited,” Izzo said. “A lot of our older players were here. I felt like the old guys were back and we played our old style.”