CHICAGO – Bruce Thornton had 21 points and six assists, freshman Roddy Gayle Jr. scored seven of his season-high 15 points in the final five minutes and short-handed Ohio State beat fourth-seeded Michigan State 68-58 in the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Ohio State (16-18) became the lowest seed, at No. 13, to ever reach the Big Ten semifinals. The Buckeyes will face top-seeded Purdue on Saturday, looking for their first win in three tries this season.
The Buckeyes were without leading scorer Brice Sensabaugh, at 16.3 points per game, due to knee soreness. But Gayle, who hadn’t scored in double figures since netting 12 points on Dec. 3 against St. Francis (Pa.), scored 12 points in the second half to make up for Sensabaugh’s absence.
Gayle extended Ohio State’s lead to 51-39 on a 3-pointer with 8:05 remaining and Justice Sueing added another 3-pointer on their next possession. Gayle made two free throws with 4:27 left and after Michigan State airballed a 3-pointer, Gayle rattled in a 3-pointer to make it 61-50. Gayle added a tough layup for an 11-point lead to cap his run of seven straight points for Michigan State.
Sueing finished with four 3-pointers and 14 points for Ohio State, which lost both regular-season meetings with Michigan State, 62-41 on Feb. 12 and 84-78 on March 4.
Ohio State had its lead trimmed to 36-34 before Thornton and Sueing made back-to-back 3-pointers to start a 10-2 run. Thornton capped the run with a fast-break layup after Sueing blocked a Michigan State shot at the rim.
Joey Hauser led Michigan State (19-12) with 15 points. Jaden Akins, A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker each scored 10.
Michigan State missed 13 of 15 shots midway through the first half before Tre Holloman scored with 5:56 left before the break. Ohio State scored eight points around Holloman’s basket to extend its lead to 28-19 and led 33-24 at halftime as Michigan State was held to 31% shooting, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.