by Brian Hendrickson
IU Super Bowl Student News Bureau
INDIANAPOLIS – For a moment it looked like Ohio State could etch its name on the Big Ten championship trophy.
Fourteen minutes remained in the Big Ten tournament championship game, and Deshaun Thomas had just hit a 3-pointer to put the Buckeyes up 52-45 after an 8-1 spurt. And as he made the pass to Thomas that set up the big shot, Aaron Craft ran into the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Michigan State forward Draymond Green, knocking him to the court where Green’s head cracked against the floor and sent him out of the game.
It left the Spartans without the forward who had been an immovable force in the tournament – one who had averaged 15.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in the three games – and a sputtering offense.
But just as Green went to the sidelines, a stunning run started. Brandon Wood sank a jumper and followed with a pair of 3-pointers on successive possessions – the most meaningful of his game-high 21 points – to start a 17-5 run that gave Michigan State just enough to pull out its 68-64 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It was a great game – a great championship game,” said Green, who credited the role players who led the decisive run. “Those guys stepped up huge.”
It was the most lopsided stretch of a back-and-forth game that featured 16 lead changes, and came at a moment when Michigan State was searching for offensive answers.
Green was already having his worst shooting performance of the tournament, hitting just 3 of 11 shots before the collision with Craft knocked him from the game. The Spartans as a whole opened the second half 2 of 6 from the field, capped when Keith Appling missed a fast-break layup just before Thomas buried the 3-pointer that put the Buckeyes up by seven.
But immediately after Green left the floor, holding his head and looking shaken up, Wood hit his run-initiating jumper to end Ohio State’s run, then two 3-pointers in the next 50 seconds. The 8-0 spurt put the Spartans back up 53-52 with 12:47 remaining and seemed to rattle Ohio State, which was 0-for-4 from the field – including an air ball from Jared Sullinger – during that stretch.
The run was only getting started, though.
Brandan Kearney put back Wood’s missed 3-pointer, and Austin Thornton added a 3-pointer to put Michigan State up 58-54. Wood then capped the run with 7:28 remaining when he took a rocketed touch pass under the basket from Green – who fired it in from the top of the key as the shot clock was about to expire – and scooped in the layup for a 62-57 lead.
It wasn’t much of a margin, but it turned out to be just enough.
The Spartans scored only six points the rest of the way. They shot 2 of 7 from the field for the remainder of the game, and 1 of 4 from the free-throw line in the final 7:28. And Green was far from his dominant self, hitting just one of his final four shot attempts, including an air ball and two shots in the post that are typically his specialty.
“It was a rough one – definitely a rough one for me personally,” Green said. “The last minute and 30 seconds … I swear I felt like it was five minutes left in that game and felt like it was taking so long.”
But because of that one hot stretch at a key – and unexpected – moment, the Spartans can call themselves Big Ten champs.