INDIANAPOLIS — It's March. And as always that means one thing: Michigan State is flying high.
The Spartans once more look destined for March greatness under Tom Izzo, and they looked the part of a championship contender Friday night with an 81-54 crushing of the Ohio State Buckeyes to earn a spot in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
There's certainly no reason to be surprised anymore that the college hoops powerhouse hits its stride every March. Last season saw the Spartans run all the way to their seventh Final Four under Izzo, and with the way they're playing, there's no reason to believe this season can't feature an eighth.
Friday, despite leading by just seven at the break, Michigan State exploded to begin the second half, running away and hiding in a blink. After shooting just 35.5 percent over the first 20 minutes, the Spartans started the second half on an 18-6 run, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Denzel Valentine and Eron Harris and getting back-to-back dunks from a fired-up Matt Costello. The game was over at that point — and really was over prior, as Ohio State led for just a minute and five seconds, even if Michigan State's first-half edge wasn't as gigantic as its second-half leads.
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The Spartans shot 60.6 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, outscoring the Buckeyes, 48-28, in the second half. Ten different Spartans scored during the second half, with Harris scoring 12 after halftime. Michigan State scored 21 points off 14 Ohio State turnovers on the game, won the rebounding battle, 40-29, and outscored Ohio State in the paint, 42-30.
Valentine was again sensational, further bolstering his case for national player of the year honors. He scored a game-high 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out eight assists. Harris scored 13 points, Deyonta Davis added 12 points and Costello finished with 10 points.
The Buckeyes couldn't do much offensively, shooting 42.6 percent on the game and going a dreadful 1-for-11 form 3-point range. JaQuan Lyle was the lone Ohio State player in double figures with 10 points.
Michigan State rumbles on to the tournament semifinals, where it will play either Maryland or Nebraska on Saturday. Winning the championship seems like it would lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Ohio State probably won't make the NCAA tournament, on the bubble prior to Friday's blowout. It could still reach a different postseason tournament.