COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was almost as if Michigan State took a time machine to Value City Arena.
Another hot start. Another collapse. More problems from its bench.
Only this time, it was a battle for first place in the Big Ten. And the Spartans could not mount any semblance of a comeback. And most likely will lose their No. 1 ranking after only a week.
Ohio State ripped off a 12-0 run at the end of the first half and made its first seven shots of the second en route to a 80-64 victory over MSU on Sunday.
It is the first loss for the Spartans (14-2, 3-1 Big Ten) since losing to Duke on Nov. 14.
MSU could not find an answer defensively for Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten’s leading scorer who finished with 32 points on 12 of 21 shooting.
The Spartans had few answers on offense as well. Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford finished with 17 points apiece, going a combined 13 of 30. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 11 points but fouled out midway through the second half. Nick Ward missed his one shot of the game as he was double-teamed and forced away from the basket all game.
MSU had won its last seven games by an average of 38.7 points and entered as the Division I leader in margin of victory (26.6 points).
Ohio State made the Spartans look like one of those teams they beat up on to ascend to No. 1 in last week’s polls.
With the game tied at 29, the Buckeyes (13-4, 4-0) got a Bates-Diop dunk to spark their end-of-half run in which they made their final four shots. MSU coach Tom Izzo got called for a technical foul, and Andrew Dakich banked in a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to send the already-loud Ohio State crowd into hysterics as the Spartans retreated to their locker room trailing, 41-29.
It was MSU’s largest deficit of the season. And it got worse from there.
Kam Williams’ dunk off a backdoor play opened the half, blowing by Langford. Then the Buckeyes got six points on one offensive possession when Williams drained a 3-pointer as the Spartans’Matt McQuaid got called for a hold in the post. Then Bates-Diop scored a layup and was fouled by Langford 1 second later, converting the three-point play.
It was a 20-point Ohio State lead not even 4 minutes into the final half. It grew to 25 by the midpoint. MSU got serenaded with “overrated” chants by the time the clock got inside 3 minutes.
A year ago, MSU got out to a hot start at OSU but then Izzo’s backups struggled to maintain an early eight-point lead in the first 3-plus minutes and went on to a 72-67 loss on Jan. 15, 2017.
The same thing happened Sunday.
After MSU took an 11-4 lead by making 4 of its first 6 shots in the first 3:32.
That’s when Izzo began subbing for his starters, first taking out Cassius Winston and Langford, then Ward. Then Bridges and Jackson.
And that’s when the Buckeyes rallied, scoring 11 straight to take their first lead against a lineup that strongly featured McQuaid, Tum Tum Nairn, Kenny Goins and Gavin Schilling. Those four were a combined minus-38 in the half.
Ohio State made 52.5 percent from the field for the game, including 63.6 percent in the second half. Three other Buckeyes scored in double figures — C.J. Jackson with 14, Jae’Sean Tate with 13 and Williams with 10.
The Spartans shot just 39 percent for the game, their second-lowest percentage of the season. The worst performance came in a 10-point win at Rutgers, MSU’s only other true road game this season.
The Spartans return home for three games, facing Rutgers on Wednesday (7 p.m., Big Ten Network). They will host Michigan on Saturday, the only meeting between the rivals this season.
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