Michigan State basketball's Aaron Henry carries Spartans to another upset

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Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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EAST LANSING — Michigan State basketball continued to play its most inspired basketball of the season, with toughness and energy helping to overcome mistakes.

With Aaron Henry in the middle of the Spartans’ late-season revival that just put them back in the hunt for the NCAA tournament. With a second top-5 win in three days.

The junior forward took over at point guard down the stretch, hitting a pair of key free throws and draining a pull-up jumper with 1:06 to play. He then set up Joshua Langford for another critical bucket 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.

It is the first time in program history the Spartans have won back-to-back games against top-5 opponents. They also are the first Division I team to do so in league play since UCLA in 2016-17.

Michigan State's Aaron Henry pulls down a rebound against Ohio State during the second half on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Michigan State's Aaron Henry pulls down a rebound against Ohio State during the second half on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

In a slugfest as epic as each two teams’ last games, Malik Hall’s free throws with 2:30 to play gave the Spartans their first lead of the second half. The Buckeyes answered every play MSU made, with E.J. Liddell hitting four free throws — two with 45.2 seconds left, after Henry’s shot, and two more with 14.4 ticks to go, after Langford’s shot.

That’s when things got even weirder and wilder.

Joey Hauser split a pair of free throws with 12.8 seconds to play. Ohio State’s Duane Washington Jr. drove, but Langford stayed in front of him, forced a miss and got the rebound.

Sent to the line, Langford split two free throws with 1.4 seconds left. The Buckeyes then threw the ensuing inbound pass the length of the court, out of bounds. The Spartans got the ball again under their own hoop, but before they could take it out, OSU coach Chris Holtmann picked up his second technical foul of the game, leading to an ejection.

Langford hit another free throw, and Hall caught the inbound pass to run out the clock and send the MSU bench onto the floor in joy.

Michigan State forward Gabe Brown shoots during the first half against Ohio State on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in East Lansing.
Michigan State forward Gabe Brown shoots during the first half against Ohio State on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in East Lansing.

The Spartans (13-9, 7-9 Big Ten) travel to Maryland for a 2 p.m. game Sunday (CBS). They host Indiana on Tuesday, then close the regular season with a pair against No. 3 Michigan: Thursday in Ann Arbor and Sunday in East Lansing.

Henry finished with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, adding four rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes after first-half foul trouble. Gabe Brown scored 11, while Langford, Hauser and Marcus Bingham Jr. all added eight apiece.

Liddell’s 18 points and Washington’s 17 led the Buckeyes (18-6, 12-6). C.J. Walker added 12.

Every time OSU appeared primed to put the game away, the Spartans responded.

MSU opened the second half on a 7-2 run to tie the game at 40-40, thanks to Holtmann’s first technical foul for running on the court to argue a no-call.

However, that fired up the Buckeyes, who went on a 9-0 run bookended by layups by C.J. Walker, forcing MSU coach Tom Izzo to call timeout with 11:28 left.

Brown then hit a jumper that again rejuvenated the Spartans. Julius Marble II picked up a loose ball and beat the shot clock with a hook-shot swish, followed by a driving Henry layup through contact. Hauser picked up another loose ball after Bingham got stripped for a layup, then Bingham scored to tie the game with 6:41 to play.

OSU scored four straight, including a jumper from Washington, the former Grand Rapids Christian star, that forced Izzo to call a timeout with 4:34 remaining. But out of it, Hauser drained a 3-pointer to halt the run, keeping MSU within a point and setting up the frantic finish.

It was a fitting end to a back-and-forth game.

In the first half, Henry and Washington took turns scoring for their teams early.

But the Spartans spent much of the half without their key sparks with Langford sitting the final 9:18 and Henry the last 6:45 thanks to each picking up two fouls.

But their supporting cast kept MSU in it.

Moments after Henry went to the bench, a Brown jumper tied it again before the Buckeyes then went on on an 11-2 run. MSU missed its final five shots and six of its last seven before going into halftime down, 38-33.

Washington had 11 at halftime, while 6-8 OSU freshman forward Zed Key came off the bench to go 4-for-4 for eight critical points in the paint. The Buckeyes, without starting forward Kyle Young, shot 56% in the half.

Henry had nine early points before his foul trouble, while Brown had nine on 4-for-5 shooting.

The Spartans survived a brutal night from Rocket Watts, who made just one of his 10 shots with five points, one assist, one turnover and one rebound in 23 minutes.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Aaron Henry lifts Michigan State basketball to upset over Ohio State