Score: Ohio State 61, Michigan State 58
Star(s): Ohio State: Aaron Craft 20 Pts, 9 Ast, 4 Stl, 3 Reb. Michigan State: Derrick Nix 17 Pts, 9 Reb.
The star of the game for the Buckeyes today was Aaron Craft. Arguably, you can make a case that this was his best game of his nearly three year career in Columbus. He finished with 20 points, one short of his career high, and also had nine assists to go with four steals and three rebounds. He was a force for the Buckeyes as he was driving through the Michigan State defense and putting in layup after layup. On top of that, he was knocking down jump shots, a part of his game that has been something that he has worked on over his career. I think Thad Matta put it best in his post game press conference when he stated: “You don’t to get to coach a lot of guys like him.”
Deshaun Thomas had another double figure scoring output with 16 on the afternoon. He only had five points in the second half, but two of them came on a jumper with under 10 seconds to go that put the Buckeyes up by five. While it was not a great shooting night for him (6-of-19), he stepped up with a few huge offensive rebounds that maintained possession and kept the clock moving as Michigan State did everything they could to claw and plug their way back in. Postgame, when asked about his struggles, Thomas stated that Matta emphasized to be patient and ready to shoot when called upon.
To the Spartans credit, they did a terrific job forcing their way inside as Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne both had big games. Nix finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, Payne finished with 12 and eight. Another player who was a major contributor was Keith Appling, who finished with 16 points. Those 16 points included four three-pointers that kept the Spartans in the game.
Defensively, the Buckeyes were very solid in the second half. Ohio State held Michigan State to 30% shooting in the second half and also held Gary Harris to five points on 1-of-7 shooting. Harris came into this game averaging 13 points per game. It was a gritty tough performance as the Buckeyes have now won eight games in a row. They advance to the Big Ten title game for the fifth year in a row and they will face off against the Wisconsin Badgers, who were the last team to beat Ohio State back on February 17th. Earlier in the day, the Badgers knocked off the top seed Indiana Hoosiers by a score of 68-56.
The two teams square off on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. CST at the United Center.
The Ohio State University basketball team plays in 5th straight conference title game tomorrow. #GoBucks
— joey galloway (@Joey_Galloway) March 16, 2013