OSU's Second-Half Surge Sinks MSU

A week ago, Ohio State experienced the low point of its season with a 22-point loss at Wisconsin.

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On Sunday, the Buckeyes redeemed themselves with their second home win over a top-five team this season.

No. 18 Ohio State used a 24-5 second-half run to turn back No. 4 Michigan State 68-60 before a raucous sellout crowd of 18,809 at Value City Arena and a national television audience. (Earlier this year, Ohio State knocked off then-No. 2 Michigan at home.)

OSU (20-7, 10-5) actually trailed Michigan State by as many as nine points early in the second half before going on its big run. The Buckeyes shot 57.1 percent in the second half and also outscored the Spartans 43-29 in that frame.

“We made some shots,” OSU coach Thad Matta said of his team’s second-half surge. “At halftime, I told them we were 10 for 29 and we had some good looks. I said, ‘You’ve got to put the ball in the basket.’

“I think defensively, we challenged them defend. That was about a high powered college basketball game you can get with the plays that were being made and the physicality of it. I thought they did a good job of defending.”

Point guard Aaron Craft asserted himself by taking the ball to the basket time and again for OSU (20-7, 10-5). He ended up with a career-high 21 points and six assists.

“I thought Aaron, the reads he was making tonight were incredible,” Matta said. “His teammates helped him by having much better spacing than we usually have. It was great to see the ball going in for him and him attacking the rim. I thought he was tremendous today.”

Craft was 7 of 12 from the floor and also 7 of 8 at the foul line. All seven of his field goals came on drives to the basket.

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“We saw some things during the first game this season that we thought we could take advantage of tonight,” Craft said. “We didn’t do a great job of challenging their bigs and doing pick-and-rolls down the floor. When guys make shots from outside, that opens up the lane and we were able to capitalize on that tonight and make layups.”

MSU coach Tom Izzo said Craft was the deciding player in this game.

"He beat us every way you could beat us,” Izzo said. “It was a joint effort. It wasn’t one guy who did not cover those ball screens very well.”

Deshaun Thomas shrugged off a tough night shooting (4 of 16) and had 14 points with seven rebounds. Backup center Evan Ravenel chipped in 10 points and five rebounds as well.

Ohio State reached the 20-win plateau for the ninth straight season under Matta. Earlier in the week, OSU had defeated Minnesota 71-45 to rebound from the loss at Wisconsin. Matta was asked about if he knew his team would respond after that loss at Madison.

“You always wonder,” Matta said. “We’ve had four to the core practices. Guys have been tuned in and they’ve been sharper in terms of how competitive it’s been and guys competing. We beat two really good basketball teams. This was a big week for us, especially coming off a game like that last week.”

Thomas added, “We came off our loss against Wisconsin and knew we had to win. When we become a defensive team, we put ourselves in the best position to win. It takes energy and effort, and we need to focus on our defensive principle to win games.”

Craft said he hopes this win spurs Ohio State to bigger and better things.

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“This time of the year, we need to find something rolling,” Craft said. “We found ourselves in a similar situation last year. The biggest thing is that we got a win against a great opponent. It doesn’t matter who scores, all that matter is that our team has more points at the end of the game. Hopefully, we can continue this going forward.”

Michigan State (22-6, 11-4) moved into the top five in the national rankings for the first time this season on Monday. But it was a tough week with a home loss to No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday and this defeat.

Freshman guard Gary Harris had 14 points and five assists for the Spartans. Adreian Payne added 12 points and 14 rebounds, while Derrick Nix had 12 points as well.

“I am disappointed that we didn’t show the grit we showed in the last two games, which normally happens when you get fat and sassy, and I think we’ve gotten a little bit of that,” Izzo said. “I take no credit away from Ohio State – they played an okay first half and a very good second half – and they deserved two win the game.”

Michigan State scored the last six points of the first half to go in with a 31-25 lead. Dawson and Harris each had eight points in the half for MSU, which shot 50 percent (13 of 26) from the floor. Ravenel had seven points to lead OSU, which was mired at 34.5 percent (10 of 29). It was a horrid half for Thomas, who had two points on 1 of 8 shooting.

OSU opened with a 4-0 lead on hoops by Smith and Craft before there was a five-minute delay for a clock malfunction. MSU then went on a 10-2 run, keyed by four points from Dawson, to go up 10-6.

Ohio State rallied with a three from Thompson and a three-point play by Ravenel to go up 12-10. The lead went back and forth before MSU’s Denzel Valentine hit a three to tie it at 20-20 with 5:10 left in the half.

OSU went ahead 22-20 on a driving layup by Craft, but Harris answered with a three-point play as he went over Craft for a layup and was fouled.

Craft then lobbed it to Thompson on an inbounds play under the basket for a resounding jam and he was fouled. His free throw made it 25-25 with 2:20 left in the half. But MSU surged ahead with the last six points of the half.

MSU’s Matt Costello had a layup. Then, after a turnover by Thomas, Dawson was fouled and made two free throws. Finally, an Amir Williams turnover led to a Dawson jam and a 31-25 halftime lead for MSU.

Harris hit a three to open the second half. Michigan State twice led by as many as nine early in the second half. The last time was on a Payne jumper from the baseline that made it 36-27 with 18:08 left. Moments later, Matta took a timeout to “communicate” with his team.

“I took the timeout because we open up and I look at and the guy guarding Harris has his back in the screen when he was catching and shooting the three,” Matta said. “Payne shoots a wide open 12-foot shot. I just said, ‘Enough. This has got to change.’

“Fortunately, it changed. It was more about challenging them to do what we needed to do to get back in the game and win the game.”

Thomas added, “Coach wanted us to be aggressive on defense and draw some turnovers. Momentum was on our side after I hit that three in the corner. Our turnovers in the second half were big. Our defense led to our offense.”

This is where the Buckeye dug in on defense and embarked on their game-turning 24-5 run. Thomas started it with a breakthrough three-pointer. Craft then drove twice for layups. Payne hit a jumper for MSU, but the Buckeyes came back as Thompson hit a jumper and Smith canned a three off a Craft assist.

Payne had a jam in transition for MSU off a Thomas miss. But Thomas came right back and splashed a three from the right corner off a pass from Craft. Williams then deflected an MSU pass to Craft. The point guard rewarded the big man by passing it ahead for a jam. Williams was fouled and hit the free throw.

MSU’s Nix then made 1 of 2 at the foul line. But the Buckeyes scored six straight to cap their run. LaQuinton Ross hit a three off a Craft pass, Ravenel made 1 of 2 free throws and Craft got a driving layup after Scott stole it from Payne. OSU led 51-41 with 9:41 left.

MSU got it down to five at 51-46 after Travis Trice hit a pair of free throws with 7:14 left. But Thomas was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws and also completed a three-point play as OSU went back up 61-52 with 3:54 left.

The Spartans scored seven straight to get the lead down to two at 61-59. Harris converted a Craft turnover into a layup and a three-point play as the Spartans got it down to two with 2:40 left.

Craft answered with another tough driving layup to make it 63-59. MSU’s Keith Appling then made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 63-60.

Craft then had a miss and there was a wild scrum for the ball – including Craft diving on the pile to make sure it was a tie-up. It was ruled a held ball and OSU maintained possession.

“The play he made to tie the ball up, he knew it was our ball,” Matta said. “That’s him.”

Thomas then had a miss, but Ravenel grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. His two free throws made it 65-60 with 1:13 left.

The teams traded turnovers and missed shots before OSU’s Ravenel swatted away a layup attempt by Appling. Craft was fouled with 21.5 seconds left. His made 1 of 2 free throws for a 66-60 lead.

Payne missed a three and Craft was fouled. His two free throws with 0.3 of a second capped it.

Also Notable

* Craft eclipsed his previous career high of 20 points against Albany on Nov. 11.

* With his seven rebounds, Thomas became the 25th Buckeye to join the 1,000-point, 500-rebound club at OSU.

Thomas now has 1,433 points for his career, good for 23rd on the school’s all-time scoring list. He needs three points to pass Paul Ebert in 22nd place. Thomas has been in double figures in all 27 games.

* This was a weird game in several ways. In addition to the delay for the clock malfunction, OSU had a five-second count turnover on an inbounds play on the sideline coming out of a timeout – a real rarity. And, Michigan State appeared to come out of a first-half timeout with just four players on the court.

* Ohio State came into the game 23rd in RPI, while Michigan State was seventh. ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi listed MSU as an NCAA one seed in his most recent Bracketology, while Ohio State was a five seed.

OSU is now 4-6 against teams currently in the RPI top 25, 4-7 against teams in the top 50 and 8-7 against teams in the top 100.

OSU was also 20th in strength of schedule. That should improve after this game.

* Michigan State still leads the all-time series at 61-53 overall, although OSU leads 34-22 in games played in Columbus. MSU won the first match-up on Jan. 19 in East Lansing (59-56). OSU has won five of its last eight games with MSU.

Under Matta (since 2004-05), OSU is 9-9 against Michigan State. Under Tom Izzo (since 1995-96), MSU is 21-12 against OSU.

Since Value City Arena opened (in 1998-99), Michigan State is 6-7 in games at the arena.

* OSU is now 15-2 at home this season. Since Matta took over Buckeye program in 2004-05, Ohio State is 152-14 in Columbus, the most home wins among Big Ten schools. Over the last four seasons Ohio State is 70-5 in Columbus.

* Ohio State is 76-21 vs. Big Ten opponents at Value City Arena.

* Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 40-51 against ranked teams in his nine years with the Buckeyes.

OSU is now 2-7 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, the home win over then-No. 2 Michigan (56-53) Jan. 13, the road loss at then-No. 18 Michigan State (59-56) on Jan. 19, the road loss at No. 3 Michigan (74-2, overtime) on Feb. 5, the home loss to No. 1 Indiana (81-68) on Feb. 10, the loss at No. 20 Wisconsin (71-49) last Sunday and this win.

In 13 years as a college head coach, Matta’s teams are a combined 49-60 against ranked teams.

OSU is now 2-4 this year against top-10 teams. The Buckeyes are 64-118 all-time against top-10 teams.

* In 15 years at VCA, OSU is now 7-3 against top-five teams.

* The win means the Buckeyes have won at least 10 Big Ten Conference regular-season games in
each of the last seven seasons, a record streak at Ohio State.

* Matta has reached the 20-win plateau in all nine of his seasons at OSU as well as all 13 of his years as a head coach. Gonzaga’s Mark Few has the current record for most 20-win seasons to start a college coaching career at 14 with Matta one season behind him.

* Ohio State visits Northwestern (13-14, 4-10) on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN2). The Wildcats play at Purdue Sunday night. OSU took a 69-59 win over Northwestern at home on Feb. 14.

* Click here for the box score of OSU-MSU.

Click here for Dave Biddle’s What We Learned column.

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