Craft leads Buckeyes past Spartans in Big Ten battle
Columbus, OH (Sports Network) - Aaron Craft scored game-high 21 points and No. 18 Ohio State captured a pivotal contest against its conference rival, defeating fourth-ranked Michigan State, 68-60, at Value City Arena on Sunday.
Deshaun Thomas tallied 12 of his 14 points in the second half, where the Buckeyes (20-7, 10-5 Big Ten) rallied to outscore their opponent by 14 in clinching their ninth consecutive 20-win campaign under head coach Thad Matta.
Evan Ravenel added 10 points and five boards in the victory.
With its second straight setback, Michigan State (22-6, 11-4) suffered a major blow to its conference title hopes, as it trails top-ranked Indiana by two games with three left to play.
Adreian Payne tallied 12 points with 15 rebounds and Gary Harris scored 14 points to go along with five assists in defeat.
After a closely contested first half, Michigan State surged ahead to take a nine-point lead in the early moments after halftime, but it was the Buckeyes' ensuing run which made the difference in the contest.
Ohio State roared back with Thomas accounting for two of the four 3- pointers made during Ohio State's impressive 24-5 surge, which staked the hosts to 51-41 lead just past the midway point in the second half.
Craft also had a significant hand in keeping the Buckeyes ahead, as he tallied 17 of his points in the final 20 minutes.
The Spartans battled back and came within 61-59 on Harris' three-point play, but Ravenel attacked the offensive glass late, which led to two free throws and a five-point Buckeyes advantage with 1:13 to play.
Michigan State turned it over on its ensuing possession and Branden Dawson missed on jumper on the following touch before Ohio State was able to clinch the victory with free throws down the stretch.
Sam Thompson's monster alley-oop slam off an inbounds pass from Craft turned into a three-point play, tying the contest at 25-25 with just over two minutes until halftime.
Michigan State scored 11 of the next 13 points to take a 36-27 lead on Payne's jumper early in second half, but Ohio State answered with its lengthy run to take the lead for good.
The Spartans will play Michigan next Sunday before closing out their regular season schedule at home against Wisconsin and Northwestern ... Matta has won at least 20 games in each of his 13 years of coaching and improved to 9-9 against Tom Izzo's Spartans ... Ohio State shot 57.1 percent in the second half.
02/24 19:04:06 ET