COLUMBUS — E.J. Liddell and Justice Sueing combined for 37 points, and No. 13 Ohio State held Michigan State to just 32% shooting as the Buckeyes cruised to a 79-62 win over the Spartans on Sunday afternoon.
Liddell’s 20 points led all scorers, and his impact extended all over the floor with seven rebounds, two blocks, and two steals to go along with his offensive output. C.J. Walker, playing in just his third game since missing four due to a hand injury, contributed 10 points and three steals.
Joshua Langford paced Michigan State with a team-high 14 points on just 4-15 shooting, and Joey Hauser chipped in with 11 points for the Spartans, who have now lost three straight games.
The contest got off to a frenetic start as the two teams combined for five consecutive makes through the opening three minutes. For Ohio State, it was Liddell who was in a groove early, scoring eight of the Buckeyes’ first 11 points as his team jumped out to an 11-7 lead through the opening four minutes.
Kyle Young’s layup increased the lead to six for Ohio State, and that’s where it would remain midway through the first half before the Buckeyes began to impose their will on the Spartans as the period wound down. C.J. Walker’s jumper increased the advantage to eight for Ohio State, their largest of the half, and the Buckeyes continued to add on from there.
Joey Hauser’s jumper momentarily cut the Michigan State deficit to six points late in the first half, but an 8-0 run by the Buckeyes just before halftime pushed the Ohio State lead to double digits as the two teams headed to the locker room.
Ohio State shot 45 percent through the opening period, including a 5-12 effort from three, and they turned the ball over just once. Defensively, the Buckeyes capitalized on six first-half turnovers by the Spartans, changing the giveaways into eight points.
To begin the second half, it was Liddell’s defense that gave Ohio State a spark with blocked shots on the first two Michigan State possessions. A pair of free throws by Liddell increased the Buckeye lead to 14 at 44-30 a minute into the final period, and the margin would hover between 12 and 14 points as the clock ticked towards the 10-minute mark.
Following a made jumper from Justice Sueing, Ohio State appeared to have finally delivered the backbreaker to the Spartans midway through the period. With the shot clock winding down, Duane Washington Jr.’s three-pointer was true, and the Buckeyes’ lead grew to 59-41.
The three-pointer was just the second make of the game for Washington Jr., both of which were from distance, and he finished with eight points.
Two free throws from Sueing had the Buckeyes out in front by an even 20 a possession later, but Michigan State still refused to go away quietly. Back-to-back threes from Langford and Rocket Watts brought the Spartans to within 14 points at 61-47 with 8:37 remaining, and a steal and layup by Aaron Henry minutes later cut the deficit to nine points as the game approached four minutes to play.
Despite their effort, Michigan State simply didn’t have the firepower to continue cutting into the lead, however, and Kyle Young’s shot clock-beating jumper with 2:14 remaining put the game away for good. A trip of free throws by Sueing salted away the final minutes as the Buckeyes sealed their 14th win of the season.
Following the game, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said expressed joy in securing another win in the country’s toughest conference, while also understanding there is work to be done.
“We have some things we need to fix and we need to do better,” Holtmann said afterward. “That kind of weighs on me as much as anything, but it was a really good win. A really good win for our team moving forward.”
Holtmann called his team “very much a work in progress,” but he said there is “no doubt this group has been a phenomenal group to coach.”
“In the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of a lot of question marks about our team, it’s been a phenomenal group to coach,” he went on to say. “The challenge is getting better —you can still lose games and be getting better … Our group’s competitive spirit, since day one, has been tremendous. Their connectedness has been really good, and hopefully, we can finish that way over the last couple of months.”
With the win, Ohio State moves into third place in the Big Ten with an 8-4 record in the conference. The Buckeyes travel to Iowa to take on the No. 7 Hawkeyes at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.