INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - No. 19 Michigan State embraced the notion of playing spoiler Saturday.
Especially given the reward: The Spartans will now play for the school’s first Big Ten tournament title in 11 years.
Aerial Powers scored 31 points to tie a school record and Tori Jankoska added 23 points to help Michigan State stun No. 9 Ohio State 83-62 and ruin the championship game rematch between the league’s two top teams. Instead, it will be the third-seeded Spartans facing defending tourney champ, No. 5 Maryland., on Sunday
“They’re a great team and I think this is a big challenge,” said Powers, who tied Liz Shimek for the school’s single-game scoring record in tourney play. “It would show us, kind of, where we place when it comes to the NCAA tournament because they always get far.”
It was a shocking turnabout.
Just one week earlier, Michigan State (24-7) needed triple overtime to get past the Buckeyes 107-105 in East Lansing. Ohio State won 85-80 in late December.
This time, it was no contest - and the two knockout punches came early.
Powers and Jankoska led an early 3-point barrage and combined for the first 11 points in a 13-2 second-quarter run that turned a 22-16 lead into a 35-18 rout.
Michigan State then closed the half on a 9-0 spurt to make it 44-20 - and the Buckeyes didn’t get closer than 18 the rest of the night.
So instead of watching Ohio State (24-7) try to beat Maryland for the third time this season, Michigan State will chase its seventh straight win as it tries to become the second Big Ten school to beat Maryland in conference play.
“It’s nice to come out of the gate as strong as we did,” Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said. “These two (Jankoska and Powers) really set the tone early.”
The Buckeyes had an even bigger problem.
The nation’s No. 2 scoring team (87.5 points) managed only 12 baskets and two 3-pointers through the first three quarters as it fell into a 72-36 hole before charging back mostly against Michigan State’s backups in the fourth.
Kelsey Mitchell led the Buckeyes with 20 points despite going 4 of 18 from the field. Shayla Cooper added 16 points, not nearly enough to avoid a third loss in four games - or the Buckeyes’ most lopsided loss this season.
“We got outtoughed and outworked,” Mitchell said.
Michigan State got a scare late in the third quarter when starting forward Akyah Taylor stayed on the ground and grabbed her jaw after taking a spill following a missed layup. Taylor eventually walked to the bench and looked all right but did not return.
Since Ohio State’s 11-game winning streak ended with a 90-88 overtime loss at Minnesota on Feb. 24, the Buckeyes have not been the same. The Buckeyes’ only win since then was 73-58 over Rutgers on Friday. This was their first double-digit loss this season, and the Buckeyes shot 32.8 percent from the field, their second-worst percentage this season.
ON THE REBOUND
Michigan State dominated offensively, defensively and on the glass. The Spartans not only had a 48-31 rebounding edge, they had as many offensive rebounds (17) as the Buckeyes grabbed on defense (17).
Michigan State: Powers also had 12 rebounds to extend her Spartans’ career record of double-doubles to 47. … Michigan State barely won 65-64 over Purdue in the last quarterfinal game Friday but showed no sign of fatigue, taking an 18-12 lead after one quarter. … The Spartans beat Minnesota in the 2005 tourney finals and lost to Purdue in the 2013 championship game, their only other title game appearances.
Ohio State: The 19-point deficit was the worst semifinal loss in school history and the second-worst Big Ten tourney loss in school history. … Ohio State scored 27 points in the final 10 minutes, and the Buckeyes’ bench had a 29-14 scoring advantage over Michigan State. … Ohio State had reached the finals in seven of the previous 13 years.
Michigan State: Plays No. 5 Maryland in Sunday’s championship game.
Ohio State: Awaits NCAA tournament pairings.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.