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Ohio State advances to Big Ten final with win over Michigan State

Aaron Craft netted 18 of his 20 points in the second half and dished out nine helpers, as No. 10 Ohio State edged eighth- ranked Michigan State, 61-58, in Big Ten semifinal action.

Deshaun Thomas scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Buckeyes (25-7), who have won seven straight and advance to the title game to play Wisconsin on Sunday.

"Well, I thought, like all Big Ten games, that was a high powered college basketball game," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "I thought our guys did a good job of keeping their composure. It was a game of runs. They got up on us, we got up on them. "

Derrick Nix paced Michigan State with 17 points and nine boards and Keith Appling poured in 16 points for the Spartans (25-8), who were looking to repeat as Big Ten champs after defeating the Buckeyes in last year's title game.

With under five minutes to play and Michigan State trailing, 57-49, Nix started and capped off a 7-0 swing to bring the Spartans within 57-56 with 1:54 remaining.

On the next Ohio State possession, Nix had a costly mistake though, as he aggressively fouled Craft on a layup attempt by grabbing his upper torso and forcing him to the ground. The referees met to review the play and determined it was a flagrant foul.

Craft made 1-of-2 from the free throw line as a result, plus Ohio State had another possession to take some time off the clock.

After a timeout and with 32 seconds to play, Thomas peeled off a screen and hit a jumper that rattled off the rim and backboard before going in to make it a four-point contest with 22 ticks remaining.

Michigan State couldn't respond as Appling's layup attempt missed and the Buckeyes were able to hold on for the victory.

"You know, I think we had some chances, and yet they just played a little smarter than us down the stretch," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "And I might as well start out with saying it was the correct call on that play. I don't think it was intentional. We got beat up top, and just felt like it was going to be a layup, so he reached out. And I've got absolutely no problem with the call."

Ohio State opened up the second half outscoring the Spartans 9-4 for a 37-33 lead, though Payne heated up around the midway point of the half, accounting for seven straight points to bring MSU within 48-47.

After a LaQuinton Ross free throw, Craft then supplied the team's next six points for a 55-47 lead with 7:22 remaining, but the Spartans didn't go down quietly.

Appling's layup with eight minutes to play in the first half put the Spartans ahead 21-19, though both squads struggled offensively to close the period.

Michigan State led at the break, 29-28.

Game Notes

The Buckeyes last won the Big Ten title in 2011 with a 71-60 triumph over Penn State ... OSU can win its third Big Ten title in four years with a victory Sunday ... Craft added four steals in the win ... The Buckeyes lost the rebounding battle, 35-38, but outscored the MSU bench 15-6.