This is typically the time of year Michigan State peaks.
As in previous seasons, the Spartans are heating up at the right time. And Friday night they held off Ohio State 76-67 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
"To win a game like that, not decisively, but to be in control of more of it against a very, very good team, I'm pleased," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
The third-seeded Spartans move on to face second-seeded Maryland in a Saturday semifinal. Wisconsin and Purdue meet in the other semi.
The Spartans (22-10) pulled away from the Buckeyes in the second half, taking a 59-43 lead with less than eight minutes remaining after Travis Trice went on a tear. The senior guard, who hit just 1 of 4 first-half shots, scored eight straight points (and 10 of 12 in a stretch) for the Spartans, whose fans packed the United Center.
They still had to withstand a Buckeyes' rally.
Ohio State (23-12) used a 12-1 run to close a 16-point gap to just 61-56 with 3 minutes, 5 seconds remaining.
It didn't help that Michigan State, the league's worst free-throw shooting team, went just 11 of 18 from the line.
Trice scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, while Denzel Valentine led the Spartans with 23 points.
"This is a big time of year for us," Valentine said. "This is the time of year when Michigan State makes its basketball history. When it comes March, everybody plays better and our focus is a little more and we want to win."
After starting 1 of 5 shooting, D'Angelo Russell — the Big Ten freshman of the year — finished with 19 points on 7 of 16 shooting.
The Buckeyes were held to just 39.7 percent shooting, while the Spartans hit 47.5 percent from the floor.
"It felt good," Spartans senior Branden Dawson said after scoring 14 points with eight rebounds and seven assists. "We have a young team. We (seniors) just have to lead these guys. For us to get a huge win against a great team, a disciplined team, it was great for us."
The Spartans have won seven of their last nine games, but they will try to avenge two regular-season losses to the Terrapins. They lost 68-66 in overtime at home on Dec. 30 and 75-59 on the road on Jan. 17.