EAST LANSING, Mich — A flurry of first-half setbacks overcome and a poor start to the second half nearly erased, Ohio State was within one possession of Michigan State.
Then the Buckeyes found a problem they couldn't solve.
Michigan State started a key run midway through the second half, and the Buckeyes did not have an answer to overcome the Spartans in a 74-66 loss Tuesday at the Breslin Center.
“We just couldn't get over the hump,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “We just couldn't make the plays when we needed to make the plays.”
The Buckeyes hung around but led for just 42 seconds as Michigan State (16-10, 8-5) managed to control most of the game
St. John's Jesuit alumnus Marc Loving scored 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting to lead all scorers, but it was not enough as Ohio State fell to 15-12 and 5-9 Big Ten, its worst mark in 12 years. Despite several runs at the MSU lead, Ohio State chased for the majority of the night.
Forward Miles Bridges recorded a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Spartans, while Alvin Ellis III scored 18, all on 3-pointers.
The Buckeyes' problems were two-fold in the first half.
First, three starters found foul trouble early in the night. Loving, the team's second-leading scorer, drew two whistles before the first media timeout and had to go the bench, while center Trevor Thompson drew an extended break after earning his second foul later in the half.
Leading scorer Jae'Sean Tate's three fouls forced him to the bench for the final 4:17 of the half
Second, Ohio State had no answer for Ellis, who seemingly could not miss as he downed five 3-pointers on five tries before the game was eight minutes old.
“We know he's a really good shooter,” Loving said. “He kept getting some good looks, and fortunately for them, he converted them.”
Even so, Ohio State kept itself in the game.
Point guard JaQuan Lyle came off the bench and provided an instant boost. Lyle — who was questionable to play with an ankle injury — scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 12 first-half minutes to help keep Ohio State on pace with Michigan State.
“The ankle's not really bothering me anymore. It's still a little tender, but I feel good,” Lyle said. “I definitely felt fresh at the beginning.”
Loving added 7 points after returning to the floor, and the Buckeyes and Spartans were even in terms of rebounding (20-20) in the first half.
Despite shooting under 40 percent from the floor (12-for-31), navigating foul trouble, and sustaining Ellis' barrage of 3-pointers, the Buckeyes went into halftime trailing by six, 40-34 at the break.
The Buckeyes then found themselves in trouble in the early stages of the second half. Michigan State began the half by making three consecutive layups, two by guard Joshua Langford, to push its lead to 12.
After Tate made a 3 in response — his first basket of the night — he also drew his fourth foul with more than 16 minutes to play.
The Buckeyes continued their surge without him, as Loving scored five points and Micah Potter tallied off an offensive rebound as a part of a 12-1 run that cut the Spartans' advantage to one.
With the Buckeyes nearly all the way back, Bridges rejuvenated the crowd with a pair of dunks and a 3, Eros Harris nailed a corner 3, and MSU completed a 12-2 run to reestablish control with just fewer than eight minutes to play.
Once again, the Buckeyes found themselves chasing.
After the Spartans' run, the Buckeyes shrank the deficit to seven, but lost their footing. When Kyle Ahrens buried a corner 3-pointer with 3:32 to play in the contest, the Buckeyes found themselves trailing by 12 with the clock running out.
"We're just leaving too much out there," Matta said.
Michigan State's lead was at least three possessions for the rest of the night.
Besides Loving, Lyle was the only Buckeyes to break into double figures, scoring 10.
The Buckeyes' loss guaranteed they would not win 10 games in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2005 season, Matta's first in Columbus.
Ohio State returns to Columbus for a home date Saturday against Nebraska. OSU won the first meeting in Lincoln.
Ohio State’s Trevor Thompson, right, shoots over Michigan State’s Miles Bridges during the first half Tuesday. Thompson was one of three Buckeyes who were slowed by foul trouble. ASSOCIATED PRESS