EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—A once-in-a-generation player helped Ohio State do something for the first time in more than 30 years.
Greg Oden had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to lead the fourth-ranked Buckeyes to a 63-54 win over Michigan State on Saturday.
The last time Ohio State won consecutive games in East Lansing was 1970 and 1971.
“That says a lot because there have been a lot of great Ohio State teams that have come up here,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said.
Not many teams have had a player like Oden, a 7-foot center that plays more like an NBA veteran than a freshman.
A game after being held to nine points, Oden had seven points in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the game. He said jeering students at the Breslin Center only served to motivated him.
“Some of the stuff that was being said, I thought, `Did he really say that?”’ Oden said. “But it’s fun to play before a crowd like that.
“And when you beat them, that’s even better.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Oden is the best freshman center he’s seen since Chris Webber led Michigan’s Fab Five during the 1991-92 season.
“He’s really getting that jump hook down,” Izzo said. “If he gets healthy enough to dribble, he takes it to another level.
“He’s good, and then the double trouble is, they have so many shooters that it’s hard to double him.”
Ohio State guards Ron Lewis (11), Mike Conley Jr. (10) and Jamar Butler (10) each scored in double figures and made at least a 3-pointer.
The Buckeyes (20-3, 8-1 Big Ten) kept pace with Wisconsin atop the conference standings with their seventh straight win since losing on the road against the Badgers.
Meanwhile, Michigan State (17-7, 4-5) has lost three straight and will have to stop the slide soon to earn an NCAA tournament bid for the 10th straight year.
The Spartans’ next game is at Wednesday night Purdue and they have two games left against No. 2 Wisconsin, a pair of matchups with the Wolverines along with home games against Indiana and Iowa.
“I have to look at my team and worry a little bit about mental exhaustion,” Izzo said. “We’re not going to have a feel-good game any time soon.”
Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half, a week after scoring 24 of his 29 points after halftime to lead a rally that came up just short in a 66-64 setback at Ohio State.
“Neitzel went crazy again on us,” Matta said.
Matta made a point of praising Neitzel on the court during a postgame chat, and again after the game.
“I just told him that he’s a terrific player,” Matta said. “Quite honestly, we hate preparing for him.”
Goran Suton added 16 points, but only four in the second half, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Nobody else scored more than four for the Spartans.
“We wanted to attack,” Suton said. “At the same time, you have to be realistic. They have Greg Oden down there.”
Freshman Raymar Morgan, Michigan State’s second-leading scorer on the team, was held to two points on 1-of-8 shooting. He averaged nearly 13 points in the previous four games.
“Raymar struggled and that was a shame because we needed one more scorer,” Izzo said.
A week after almost blowing a 20-point lead in the second half against Michigan State, the Buckeyes had less trouble holding off the Spartans.
Ohio State led by as much as 11 in the first half and Oden put it ahead 55-46 with five minutes left to play. A Neitzel-led rally pulled the Spartans within three with 53.1 seconds left, but they couldn’t get closer and lost at home for the first time in 15 games this season.
“One thing we tried to point out was Neitzel was trying to shoot the ball every time down the floor,” Matta said.
Neitzel didn’t have much help, but Oden did.
Ohio State’s perimeter players put together solid games and reserve forward Othello Hunter added eight points and eight rebounds.
“This was a great team win for us,” said Matta, who has least 20 victories in each of his seven seasons as a coach at Ohio State, Xavier and Butler.