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Michigan State Spartans continue making push for NCAA men's basketball tournament with 71-67 win over No. 4 Ohio St.

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING — Tom Izzo walked into the locker room with fists in the air and an ear-to-ear grin on his face, welcoming water getting doused on him by Michigan State’s players celebrating what clearly was not just another win.

Aaron Henry had 18 points to help the Spartans improve their chances of making the NCAA Tournament with a 71-67 win over No. 4 Ohio State on Thursday, two days after Izzo’s team beat No. 5 Illinois by nine points.

The Hall of Fame coach led Michigan State to the national championship in 2000, early in a string of 22 straight NCAA Tournaments that includes eight trips to the Final Four.

This year, though, it looked as if the Spartans (13-9, 7-9 Big Ten) would not make their usual appearance in the NCAA Tournament until their recent surge with three straight wins.

And that’s why Izzo had no problem with the postgame celebration.

“There would’ve been days I would’ve chewed them out for that,” he said.

Michigan State beat top-five teams in consecutive conference games for the first time in program history.

The Spartans rallied from a nine-point, second-half deficit against Ohio State 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) closed 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.

“I’m not going to talk specifically about the officiating,” Holtmann said.