A week back, Ohio State was in the middle getting run off the floor at Wisconsin and wondering what was happening to its season after losing 3 of 4 games.
Now the 18th-ranked Buckeyes have run off 2 straight victories, the latest a magnificent 68-60 win over 4th-ranked Michigan State at Value City Arena.
Aaron Craft scored career-high 21 points and handed out 6 helps for Ohio State (20-7, 10-5 Big 10). He helped spark a 24-5 run in the 2nd half that turned a 9-point delinquency into a 10-point lead.
“Give Aaron Craft a lot of credit,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo asserted. “In the 2nd half, he tore us up. He beat us every way you can beat us. It is a joint effort; it wasn’t just one guy (who couldn’t guard him).”
After Adreian Payne had put Spartans ahead 36-27 with a jumper early in the 2nd half, Craft went to work. He routinely beat the Michigan State defense on the ball screens and converted 1 or 2 layups while the Ohio State shooters started heating up.
Deshaun Thomas, who finished with 14 points for the Buckeyes, was only 4-for-16 from the field, but his two 3-pointers in the 2nd-half run were critical. After his first treble, which cut Michigan State’s lead straight to 36-30, Ohio State coach Thad Matta delivered a message.
Immediately after Thomas’ shot went down, Matta called a timeout and told his team the chance was there to get control.
“He just said he wanted us to be aggressive on defense,” Thomas declared, “get some stops and some turnovers as the momentum was on the right side after I hit that 3. We got like 14 turnovers, and that was big. Our defense led straight to our offense.”
Michigan State, which lost consecutive games for the 1st time this season, cut the lead directly to 2 in the final 3 minutes but couldn’t get over the hump.
Gary Harris scored 14 points for the Spartans (22-6, 11-4), while Payne added 12 points and 15 rebounds. Derrick Nix scored 12 points for Michigan State.
Michigan State Spartans closed the 1st half on a 6-0 run to take a 31-25 lead into the locker room. Ohio State’s Sam Thompson tied the game with an impressive 3-point play before the Spartans went on their run, dunking on an inbounds play and converting the free throw. Basketball scores
The Michigan State Spartans closed the half strong on a layup by Matt Costello and four straight points from Branden Dawson, including a dunk on a throw from Harris.
Dawson and Harris each had 8 points for Michigan State, while Payne had 10 rebounds in the 1st half, and Evan Ravenel had 7 points towards lead Ohio State.
Michigan State outrebounded Ohio State 33-26 and shot better than the Buckeyes (45.7 percent to 44 percent).
However, the Buckeyes shot 57 percent from the field in the 2nd half, and now look to close the season powerful, the same way they actually did last season when they scratched out a share of the Big 10 championship.