Spartans Claim Big Ten Title Over Buckeyes, 68-64
March 11, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Draymond Green now has the winning chapter in Michigan State history he has longed for.
Green had 12 points and nine rebounds to help the eighth-ranked Spartans beat No. 7 Ohio State 68-64 on Sunday in the Big Ten tournament championship game.
Green and the Spartans claimed both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles, and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Big Ten player of the year and the tournament's most outstanding player felt he needed to win something for coach Tom Izzo to include him in the conversation with Michigan State greats.
"Coach always talked to us about leaving a footprint in the sand. He always said Mateen Cleaves, he left a footprint, Magic Johnson - they left a footprint. And me and Austin (Thornton) always say, when we leave here, we want him to talk about the Green-Thornton era. We've been talking about our footprint."
Brandon Wood scored a season-high 21 points. Wood transferred to Michigan State after graduating from Valparaiso last year with eligibility remaining. He received a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately because he entered graduate school. He only started because starter Branden Dawson tore a left knee ligament in the regular-season finale against Ohio State.
"He was on it today, making shots, and that's what he's known for," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "Happy for him that he has an opportunity to play in this game. And he was feeling it from behind the line there and hit some difficult shots. We didn't get matched up quite as quickly as we needed to."
Green shot just 4 for 15 from the field, struggling in his matchup with Deshaun Thomas.
"It was a tough game for me, but my guys picked me up," Green said. "Everybody gives me the credit, but these guys came through huge two days in a row."
Derrick Nix added 10 points for the Spartans (27-7), who claimed their first tournament title since 2000 in a dramatic game that featured 16 lead changes.
Jared Sullinger scored 18 points for Ohio State, and Thomas and William Buford added 11 each as the Buckeyes (27-7) were denied a third straight league title.
The Spartans will play Long Island University-Brooklyn on Friday in the West Region. Ohio State was named the No. 2 seed in the East region and will play Loyola (Md.) on Thursday.
The buildup for Sunday's game was immense. Buford hit a game-winner with 1 second left to help the Buckeyes defeat the Spartans 72-70 on Michigan State's home court in the regular-season finale to claim a share of the title and prevent the Spartans from winning it outright.
Sullinger committed his second foul with 8:22 left in the first half. At that point, the Buckeyes led 18-17. Michigan State appeared to gain momentum late in the half. A putback by Green and a layup by Keith Appling late in the half gave the Spartans a 34-29 lead.
Aaron Craft scored on a putback then Buford made a free throw after Izzo was issued a technical foul for disagreeing with a call, and the Spartans led 34-32 at halftime.
Sullinger immediately changed things for the Buckeyes, scoring nine points in the first 7 minutes of the second half. He made a jumper, Appling missed a layup on the other end and Thomas made a 3-pointer to put Ohio State ahead 52-45.
Wood answered with two 3-pointers to put the Spartans back in front, highlighting a 10-0 run.
Late in the shot clock, Green found Wood under the basket. He caught the ball in midair while under the hoop, and his reverse layup gave the Spartans a 62-57 lead with 7:27 to play.
Green's 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining put the Spartans up 67-62.
As good as Sullinger was throughout the tournament, his final minute was one to forget. He missed in close twice against Green then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 25 seconds remaining.
Sullinger was still named to the all-tournament team after averaging 24 points and nine rebounds in the tournament.
"I think that leading into this, Jared probably had his three best practices of the year," Matta said. "I knew he was going to play well."
Thornton's free throw with 12.7 seconds left put the Spartans up 68-64 and started the celebration for Michigan State's fans.
"It was a fight," Izzo said. "That was one of those physical, tough games."
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