Ohio State’s Aaron Craft scored a career-high 21 points as the No. 18 Buckeyes (20-7, 10-5) handed the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (22-6, 11-4) a 68-60 loss on Sunday.
Craft — who is most known for his in-your-face defense — scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and had his way with the Michigan State guards as he was able to get layup after layup.
A win for Ohio State keeps them in the hunt for a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament — awarded to the top four teams, and a loss for Michigan State puts them two games behind Indiana for first place in the Big Ten.
MSU junior Adreian Payne continued his tear against his home-state Buckeyes with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting and a career-high 15 rebounds. Freshman Gary Harris added 14 points and five assists, and senior Derrick Nix scored 12 points and grabbed six boards.
The Buckeyes also got solid production from the Big Ten’s leading scorer Deshaun Thomas. The junior from Fort Wayne, Ind. scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Evan Ravenel gave OSU some very solid minutes off the bench, as he scored 10 points including two big free throws with 1:13 left to give Ohio State a five point lead.
While losing two games in one week against ranked opponents won’t help the Spartans reach their goal of grabbing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Keith Appling’s play as of late should be at the top of Tom Izzo’s concerns.
Appling has shot 14-of-49 (29 percent) from the field over MSU’s last five games and has averaged 2.8 turnovers and 2 assists. The junior was crowned the Spartans late-game closer but he’s struggled to contribute to the Spartans late-season push for a potential Big Ten Championship.
Michigan State basketball has three games left on their schedule (at Michigan, home vs. Wisconsin and home vs. Northwestern), and aside from still going after the regular season Big Ten Championship, they need to finish out the season strong so they can at least grab a No. 2 seed come March.