Buckeyes shut down Spartans late, hold on for win
Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Amir Williams hit a tiebreaking free throw with 37 seconds left and Aaron Craft helped Ohio State hold Michigan State scoreless over the final 4:30, as the Buckeyes downed the 22nd-ranked Spartans, 69-67, on Sunday at Value City Arena.
Branden Dawson drained a jumper with 4 1/2 minutes left to give the Spartans a 67-65 lead, but LaQuinton Ross countered with a jumper at the other end before the teams went scoreless over the next three-plus minutes.
After Williams split 1-of-2 from the line for a 68-67 OSU lead, Adreian Payne came up short on a 3-point try and Craft dove on the floor to grab the offensive rebound before being tied up.
"[Craft's diving rebound] was his staple and the poetic justice way to end his last game," MSU head coach Tom Izzo said of the senior guard's late hustle play. "He made some big plays and had a very good game. A kid like that deserves that kind of game on Senior Day."
The Buckeyes had the possession arrow and Craft promptly went 1-of-2 from the line to make it a two-point spread with 20.9 ticks to play.
Craft then forced a Denzel Valentine turnover on MSU's next touch, but Sam Thompson missed both free throws to leave the door open for the Spartans.
Gary Harris grabbed the rebound off Thompson's miss and raced down the court before pulling up at the foul line. However, Craft was there with a hand in his face, and Harris' shot fell short, allowing OSU to escape with the win.
"I thought we defended down the stretch as well as we could defend, and we had to," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "We kept shooting ourselves in the foot with free throws but we kept defending."
Ross supplied a team-high 22 points, while Craft added 12 points, seven assists and four steals to help Ohio State (23-8, 10-8 Big Ten) snap a two-game skid heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Payne poured in 23 points and grabbed eight boards to pace the Spartans (23-8, 12-6), who have lost three of their last four games.
Michigan State led 38-36 at the break before the Buckeyes opened the second half on an 8-1 burst to grab a five-point lead.
Harris answered with consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 14-2 burst that the sophomore guard capped with a jumper for a 53-46 lead with 12:47 to play.
Craft capped an 8-2 OSU swing to bring the Buckeyes even at 60-60 with 7:44 remaining before Shannon Scott answered Payne's 5-0 run with five straight points of his own to make it 65-65 with just over five minutes left.
Neither team led by more than five in a tightly-contested first half that featured seven ties, with the final one coming at 36-36 following Trey McDonald's three-point play with 1:41 left in the first half.
Keith Appling finished a layup with under eight seconds left to send MSU into the break with a slim 38-36 lead.
Craft owns the Big Ten record for career steals with 328 and is OSU's all-time assist leader with 673. He is the only Buckeye in school history to reach 1,000 points, 600 assists, 300 steals and 450 rebounds in a career ... OSU went 19-of-31 from the free throw line ... Harris had 12 points and five boards for MSU ... The Spartans shot 51.9 percent from the floor in the first half, but shot just 35.7 percent over the final 20 minutes.