(Photo courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch)

The Buckeyes Men’s Basketball program began it’s 2019 Big Ten Tournament hopes in a positive light on Thursday in Chicago with a win against the Hoosiers of Indiana – pausing their rally that put a strain on all of us. In their 79-75 win the Buckeyes advanced to the quarterfinals for the Big Ten Tournament.

Kaleb Wesson had to witness his Buckeyes struggle to find an identity without him after he had been suspended following a violation of an Ohio State athletic department policy (whatever that is or means??) … His punishment couldn’t have come at a more inopportune moment in the season. But in his return Thursday, to his credit, he was the glue-factor – setting the tone for the Buckeyes’ 79-75 win over the Hoosiers.

It’s the first time since 2013 that head coach Chris Holtmann has won a conference tournament game.

Wesson put together an impressive 17 points, 13 rebounds, two steals, along with three blocks as his presence seemed to spark everyone.

Keyshawn Woods had one of his most efficient games with a team-high 18 points and Luther Muhammad made more than one shot in a game for the first time since mid-February. In total, four players reached double figures as the Buckeye’s starters scored 65 of the 79 points on 48.9 percent shooting.

The Ohio State’s Men’s team would led by as much as 20 points in the second half before the Hoosiers fought hard, refusing to die, specifically with the hot hand of Devonte Green. The junior guard scored a game-high 26 points, knocking down eight of 10 shots from three-point range as he came off the bench. Despite his marksmanship, the Buckeyes never trailed in the second half.

Without Wesson the past three games, Ohio State (19-13, 8-12 Big Ten) struggled to find any resemblance of an offense and with his return the electricity needed was certainly the spark needed for everyone else in the Scarlet and Gray uniform. The amount of attention he draws on any given possession provides opportunities for others to make plays.

There have been plenty of times this season where the Buckeyes did not prosper on these opportunities. But whenever they did figure this obvious point out it always led to a positive result. Justin Ahrens took advantage against Iowa and on Thursday four others did. And with that – the Buckeyes were moving on to Friday’s match against the Spartans of *ichigan State – with an outside hope on looking towards Sunday.

And the came *ichigan State ….

The 6th ranked Spartans indeed have their sights set on a sixth Big Ten Tournament championship and a deep NCAA run.

Against the Buckeyes Friday (Today) Cassius Winston smacked down 18 point-a-Roo’s, Foster Loyer sparked a lift off the bench with a career-high 14 points, and *ichigan State gave Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo his 600th career win, a 77-70 victory over the Buckeyes.

The Spartans (26-6) pulled away in the second half for their third win over the Buckeyes (19-14) this season and will now move up against the 19th ranked Badgers of Wisconsin – whom previously slowed down the Cornhuskers of Nebraska 66-62 – in the semifinals on Saturday.

What of Izzo’s milestone?

”They asked me what that means,” he said. ”And I said, it means good things. You’re getting old, and you’re 600 shy of Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim. It keeps you humble, and it makes you realize you haven’t accomplished that much yet.”

I must confess – and it certainly does not line me up as an Izzo fan – but I like that response.

With a 600-231 record, seven Final Fours and an NCAA championship, Izzo has accomplished a decent resume in 24 seasons. But, a correction to be made – he’s actually more than 800 wins shy of Krzyzewski and Boeheim.

But that sounds like sour grapes, huh? It’s a milestone to be proud of – it’s his, and he has earned it.

Winston, the Big Ten Player of the Year, had seven rebounds and five assists in this one against the Buckeyes.

Loyer hammered home 4 of 5 3-pointers in 18 minutes after making just 4 of 20 during the regular season.

The Buckeyes lost for the fifth time in seven games, though coach Chris Holtmann expects an NCAA invitation.

”I certainly feel confident in our body of work,” he said. ”And the league we played in is top to bottom the best in the country. I really believe that. I think the metrics would show that. Coaches say that all the time – that’s the best league in the country. But I think our metrics would show an objective look at that, that it is the best.”

Well, let’s hope so ….

Keyshawn Woods scored 16 points for the Buckeyes, and Andre Wesson had 14. But his brother Kaleb Wesson fouled out with seven points and three rebounds midway through the second half.

The Buckeyes did go on an 8-0 run early in the second to grab a 40-38 lead. But the Spartans responded by scoring nine straight, with Loyer hitting a 3 and pull-up jumper to make it 47-40 with just under 15 minutes left.

Kaleb Wesson fouled out with 9:42 left when he bumped Winston going for the loose ball after missing a shot for Ohio State.

It was 61-49 when Henry threw down an “pretty” slam off a “Hail Mary pass” from Winston, drawing a roar from a large following of Spartans fans. The Spartans led by as many as 21 before going cold over the final four minutes, allowing the Buckeyes to close the gap.

FINAL VIEW:

The Buckeyes: I agree with Coach Holtmann – the overall body of the Buckeyes work is better when reviewed properly, instead of the last half of the season – and, plus, the win over the Hoosiers did help.

Now let’s wait and see what happens.

For the Big ten Championship – don’t be surprised to see the Road kill State of *ichigan have both MSU and TTUN there. UGH!