EAST LANSING, Mich. — Aaron Henry had 18 points to help Michigan State improve its chances of making the NCAA Tournament with a 71-67 win over No. 4 Ohio State on Thursday night, two days after coach Tom Izzo’s team beat No. 5 Illinois by nine points.
The Spartans (13-9, 7-9 Big Ten) rallied from a nine-point, second-half deficit with Gabe Brown finishing with 11 points and Josh Langford making key plays at both ends of the court.
The Buckeyes (18-6, 12-6) finished the game without coach Chris Holtmann, who was ejected for arguing with officials when he was called for a second technical foul with 1.4 seconds left.
Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell had 18 points on 4 of 13 shooting and Duane Washington scored 17 on 7 of 16 shooting. C.J. Walker scored 12 points and Justice Sueing added 10 for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes went ahead 49-40 midway through the second half, but Henry and Langford would not let them pull away as Michigan State outscored them 15-6 to pull into a 55-all tie with 6:42 left.
Malik Hall made free throws to put the Spartans ahead 64-63 with 2:23 to go. Henry followed with a jumper to give them a three-point lead with 1:08 remaining.
Both teams took turns making free throws until Michigan State’s Joey Hauser missed the first of two free throws, giving the Buckeyes the ball with 12.8 seconds left and a chance to tie or win the game in regulation.
Washington came up short, defended by Langford, on a layup with about five seconds left to trigger Holtmann’s second technical.
Michigan State was coming off an 81-72 win over No. 5 Illinois at home on Tuesday and started strong against the Buckeyes, leading 11-6 a few minutes into the game.
Henry went to the bench with 6:45 left in the first half after getting called for a second foul and scoring nine points, leading to the Buckeyes leading 38-33 at halftime.
Washington had 11 points over the opening 20 minutes, dueling with Henry at times before he went to the bench where Izzo keeps players if they have two fouls in the first half.
Liddell held to 5 points, missing 5 of 6 shots over the first 20 minutes.
It ended up being a much closer game than the previous matchup last month, shortly after the Spartans returned from a COVID-19 outbreak. The Buckeyes beat Michigan State 79-62 at home, ending a four-game losing streak in the series.
Ohio State: Senior forward Kyle Young, who averages 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and has started 22 games, was out for the game because of a concussion after bumping heads with a Michigan player in Sunday’s loss. Junior guard Musa Jallow missed a second straight game with an ankle injury.
Michigan State: Point guard Foster Loyer was on the bench, but not in uniform, resting his injured left shoulder for a third game in a row.
The Buckeyes have a chance to hold their lofty position in the Top 25 with another opportunity to earn a quality win at home game against No. 9 Iowa on Sunday.
Ohio State: Host the Hawkeyes on Sunday, three days after their 79-57 loss at No. 3 Michigan.
Michigan State: Play at Maryland on Sunday, a third game in six days against a team that has been resting and practicing since beating Rutgers on Feb. 21.