Deshaun Thomas had done everything for Ohio State but drive the team bus and sell popcorn Saturday night at Michigan State.
Thad Matta after loss at MSU
But he never got a chance to force an overtime with a last-second three-point shot.
Instead, with OSU trailing by three, point guard Shannon Scott rushed the ball into the frontcourt and heaved up an off-balance shot with just over four seconds left. MSU’s Keith Appling corralled the wild miss and the 18th-ranked Spartans had escaped their home floor with a 59-56 win over the 11th-rated Buckeyes.
The loss spoiled a 28-point effort by Thomas, OSU’s All-American candidate. He was visibly upset on the floor afterwards in not having a chance to send this wild back-and-forth game into overtime.
The Buckeyes (13-4, 3-2) trailed 59-56 after Appling hit a pair of free throws with 7.9 seconds left. OSU coach Thad Matta used his last timeout to design a play for a desperation three.
“It was just a drive-and-kick,” Matta said. “We had an action on the other side (of the floor). That was not the play that cost us the game, there is no doubt about that.
“Michigan State knew we were going to go to him. They had locked on to him. We would have liked to have gotten it there.”
Thomas came up three points shy of his career scoring mark of 31 points, a mark he has reached twice previously. He was 10 of 20 from the floor, including a red hit 6 of 11 behind the three-point arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds and never left the floor for the Buckeyes.
On the final play, he was trailing Scott and looking for the pass.
Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft after loss at MSU
“In the heat of the moment and in this environment for a young guy, he was just listening to what Coach said,” a calmed down Thomas said. “He thought he got fouled and he chucked it up. We have to learn from this.”
MSU coach Tom Izzo said he could not remember a time when he had asked a team to foul with a late lead. But he confirmed that would have happened if Scott had laid it off to Thomas.
“Had they handed it off (to Thomas), we would have fouled,” Izzo said. “I wasn’t going to let him take a shot. But we were only going to foul if it was Thomas.”
As it turned out, Thomas ended up with exactly half of OSU’s 56 points. Nobody else was in double figures, either, with Lenzelle Smith Jr. next with six points for OSU.
With Wisconsin suffering its first Big Ten loss at Iowa, the Buckeyes missed a chance to get into a tie for the league lead in the loss column.
“We are a resilient team,” said OSUU point guard Aaron Craft, who had five points, six assists, five steals and four turnovers in 38 minutes. “We fought well tonight. At times, we were fighting without a purpose. We were trying to play as hard as we could without keeping our system in mind.
“But we have a group of fighters over there.”
Appling had 15 points to lead Michigan State (16-3, 5-1), while Adreian Payne added 14 points and five rebounds for the Spartans. MSU scored the game’s first 10 points before Ohio State woke up and made a real game out of it.
MSU coach Tom Izzo postgame
“It was a hell of a game,” Izzo said. “We got off to a great start. We did everything you could do right. The game plan was to go inside and go at Thomas. We did a good job of that.
“But after that … you can blame the coach. We just did not get the ball inside after that. I thought we called some things to get it in there. You have to give Ohio State some credit on that, but not all the credit.”
Ohio State got off to a dreadful start, spotting MSU leads of 10-0 and 13-2.
“You can’t start the game the way we started it,” Matta said. “We had some malfunctions there. In the first half, we had nine turnovers and they had seven steals. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”
The Buckeyes roared back with 15 straight for a 17-13 lead. MSU battled back and went in at the half up 30-26.
Thomas had 10 first-half points for OSU, while Appling and Payne each had seven.
Ohio State missed its first three shots and committed three turnovers as MSU jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Derrick Nix’s two free throws with 15:37 left made it 10-0. OSU’s Sam Thompson ended the drought with a rebound basket. But MSU’s Brandon Dawson had a reverse and made 1 of 2 free throws for a 13-2 lead with 13:10 left in the half.
OSU’s 15-0 uprising coincided with reserves Evan Ravenel and Shannon Scott entering the game.
Thomas splashed a three off a Scott assist, Craft hit a three off a Thompson pass, Thomas made another three off a Scott assist, Scott made two free throws, Scott fed Thomas for a jam on the fast break and Ravenel splashed a baseline jumper for a 17-13 lead with 6:41 left in the half.
During this stretch, MSU missed nine straight shots from the floor. Payne broke the seven-minute field goal drought with a three and Appling followed with one of his own for a 19-17 lead with 5:00 left in the half. MSU’s Denzel Valentine hit a three for a 22-19 lead with 4:29 left.
OSU battled back and tied it at 24-24 on a three by LaQuinton Ross. Craft drove for a layup and a 26-24 lead with 1:53 left. But MSU scored the last six points of the half – all of them by Appling – for a 30-26 halftime lead.
Thomas hit a pair of threes early in the second half to tie it at 32-32. A three by Lenzelle Smith Jr. gave OSU a 35-34 lead with 17:47 left. But MSU regained the lead at 38-36 on a desperation baseline jumper by Appling to beat the shot clock with 15:10 left. Harris and Lawson followed with baskets for a 42-36 lead with 12:59 left.
The lead went to seven at 46-39 after Harris soared in for a rebound basket.
OSU reeled off six straight points, including a spinning layup on the baseline by Thomas and a three-point play by Scott to cut it to 46-45 with 7:29 left.
Over the next several minutes, points were at a premium as the defenses dug in. Appling lobbed it inside to Payne for a layup and a 50-47 lead with 3:34 left. But Thomas hit a three from the top of the key to knot it at 50-50 with 2:57 left.
Thomas was giving up some size to Payne on the block and twice found himself out of position. The lanky Payne took advantage the second time, going to the basket for a bank shot and drawing a foul from Ravenel. His free throw made it 53-50 with 2:05 left.
OSU tied it at 53-53 on a pair of free throws by Thomas with 57.9 seconds left. But MSU’s Appling drove for the go-ahead basket with 41 seconds left. Craft appeared to slip on the play, giving Appling a driving lane to the middle.
“I think we might have gambled a couple of times down the stretch when we shouldn’t have,” Craft said of the late breakdowns. “That’s going to come back to hurt you, especially against a great team like these guys.”
OSU then had a pair of good looks, but Thomas and Craft each missed on three-point tries. MSU’s Dawson tapped out the long rebound and outletted it to Appling for a breakaway dunk with 16.9 seconds left, giving the Spartans a 57-53 lead.
“It felt pretty good,” Craft said of his three-point try. “They made the big plays down the stretch and we didn’t. We still had a chance to win it at the end. This is a good reminder that we’re not there yet, but we still have a lot of basketball to play. We have to get better.”
Smith hit a desperation three to cut it to 57-56 with 10.8 seconds left. But Appling was fouled on the inbounds play. His two free throws made it 59-56 with 7.9 seconds left, setting the stage for OSU’s ill-fated final play.
* Thomas has twice scored 31 points for his career high, the most recent time against Washington on Nov. 18.
His 28 points in this game give him 1,250 in his OSU career. He moved up three spots on OSU’s career scoring list to 30th, passing John Havlicek (1,223), Larry Siegfried (1,228) and Ronnie Stokes (1,240).
On a night when his teammates where a combined 9 of 27 (33.3 percent) from the floor, Thomas more than kept the Buckeyes in it.
“I was trying to do anything I could to help my team win,” Thomas said. “I was trying to execute down the stretch and hit big shots. I felt good and comfortable coming off screens.”
* Coming into the game, Ohio State was 25th in RPI. Michigan State was 19th.
* Michigan State now leads the all-time series at 61-52 overall, including 37-17 in East Lansing. Ohio State is 5-15 all-time at the Breslin Center, the home of MSU hoops since 1989-90. OSU did not win at Breslin from 1992 until 2006. Beginning with 2006, OSU is now 4-3 at Breslin.
Under Matta (since 2004-05), OSU is 8-9 against Michigan State. Under Tom Izzo (since 1995-96), MSU is 21-11 against OSU.
Matta was asked about the OSU-MSU rivalry over the last several years.
“You’ve got what I would consider two of the top college basketball programs going head to head,” Matta said. “We’ve won four times in here (at Breslin since 2006) and I have brought some great teams in here. Tom has brought some great teams down to Columbus.
“We’ve been in this league and it’s been us battling. I would hope we can get the respect and give Michigan State the respect. You have two great college basketball programs. There have been some great battles in here.”
* Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 39-48 against ranked teams in his nine years with the Buckeyes.
OSU is 1-4 against ranked teams this year with their loss at then-No. 2 Duke on Nov. 29 (73-68), the home loss to then-No. 9 Kansas (74-66) on Dec. 22, the loss at then No. 11-Illinois (74-55) Jan. 5 and the home win over then-No. 2 Michigan (56-53) last Sunday.
In 13 years as a college head coach, Matta’s teams are a combined 48-57 against ranked teams.
* OSU is 1-3 on the road this year with losses at Duke and Illinois and a win at Purdue (74-64).
* Ohio State returns home to host Iowa (13-5, 2-3) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night (Big Ten Network). Iowa handed Wisconsin its first Big Ten loss Saturday night, winning 70-66 at Iowa City.
* Click here for the box score from OSU-MSU.
Click here for Dave Biddle's What We Learned column.