Sports Journalism Blog

By Alaa Abdeldaiem | @Abdeldaiem_Alaa

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — Shocking, disappointing, heartbreaking — ­all words Ohio State’s Cait Craft could have used to describe her Buckeyes’ 82-63 Big Ten Tournament loss to third-seeded and nineteenth-ranked Michigan State Saturday night, but none would have been enough to express the senior guard’s true emotions after being eliminated from conference tournament play.

“I don’t know what else to say,” Craft said. “It hurts, especially because we had a great opportunity here. It was almost as if we weren’t there. We were on the court going through the motions, but we weren’t there. That’s not going to help us beat anyone.”

A week earlier, Michigan State had needed triple overtime to defeat the Buckeyes in a 107-105 thriller. Saturday night, however, was no contest, and the Spartans are now set to face top-seeded Maryland Sunday night for their first Big Ten championship in 11 years.

The 19-point margin was one point less than Ohio State’s worst Big Ten tournament defeat, a 81-61 loss to Purdue in a 2001 quarterfinal. Michigan State led by as many as 36 points.

Trailing 6-5 in the game’s early minutes, the Spartans went on an 11-0 run to take a 16-6 lead near the end of the opening quarter.

Michigan State would go on to outscore the Buckeyes 26-8 in the second quarter, shooting at 78.6 percent while holding Ohio State to just 4-of-16 and heading into the locker room with a 44-20 lead.

“Michigan State makes you fight for everything that you get, every possession, every rebound, every touch in the paint, every shot that you get off,” Craft said. “They brought it tonight, and we didn’t. That’s really all there is to it.”

The Buckeyes lost senior guard Ameryst Alston to a wrist sprain in Friday night’s win over Rutgers. Alston’s average of 19.2 points per game was second among the Buckeyes and she has scored 2,138 points in her career. Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff didn’t believe his team was able to adjust to Alston’s absence.

“We hit some adversity there with Ameryst with the injury, and we didn’t handle it very well,” McGuff said. “We looked out of synch from the get-go, and Michigan State is too good of a team for you to come out like that.”

After going 15-of-24 for 43 points against Rutgers Friday night, sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell was held to just 4-of-18 shooting in the loss, with 10 of her 20 total points resulting from trips to the free-throw line.

“Our defense was tremendous,” said Spartans’ junior guard Aerial Powers, who led Michigan State with 31 points and 12 rebounds. “It led to fast-break points and gave us confidence on the offensive end when we finally got stopped. At one point we were hitting every single shot back to back to back, and I think that was stemming from our defense.”

While Michigan State prepares for Sunday night’s championship, McGuff and his Buckeyes will await the NCAA tournament pairings and hope to take this loss as a lesson for the weeks ahead.

“We have to learn from tonight that we’re going to hit adversity again,” McGuff said. “I don’t know what it will be, but how we react to it is going to determine everything. We have a great opportunity ahead of us. We just have to get back to the gym and get back to being who we are.”