Michigan State stumbles at Ohio State
by Joe Rexrode, USA TODAY Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Keith Appling suffered through his second straight subpar game, Aaron Craft sliced through Michigan State’s backcourt and No. 18 Ohio State came back from a nine-point deficit in the second half today to get past No. 5 MSU, 68-60.
The Spartans’ second loss of the week bleakens their Big Ten title hopes considerably. MSU drops to 22-6 and 11-4 in the Big Ten with three games to play — falling two games in the loss column behind No. 1 Indiana (12-2), which came back to win, 72-68, Tuesday at Michigan State.
The Buckeyes (20-7, 10-5) earned a season split with MSU thanks to a 24-5 run in the second half, keyed by Craft and Deshaun Thomas. Craft had a game-high 21 points and Thomas — the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 20.1 points a game entering the game — scored 14 after he was 1-for-8 in the first half.
Gary Harris scored 14 and Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne each had 12 for the Spartans, who chopped a 10-point deficit to two in the final three minutes, but could not get closer. Branden Dawson had all eight of his points in the first half and Appling scored three.
Appling shot 1-for-6 and had one assist and three turnovers. This after Appling was 1-for-8 with six points, two assists, four turnovers and a critical free throw miss in the loss to IU.
The Spartans led, 31-25, at the half thanks to eight points apiece from Harris and Dawson — highlighted by a perfect fast-break lob from Harris to Dawson for a one-handed slam. Thomas had just two points at the break with Payne and Dawson the primary defenders.
A Harris three-pointer pushed MSU’s lead to nine early in the second half, but Craft led the Buckeyes back. He got past Appling for a layup, then he did it again.
He missed another try, but the ball was tapped out to Thomas, who drained a three-pointer. Thomas got free from Payne for another one moments later, and the Buckeyes were off on a game-changing 18-4 run.
In that run, Appling was a mess on both ends, turning … [For more on Slumping Michigan State stumbles at Ohio State, click here.]