Junior guard Keith Appling capped off a big night with two free throws with only 7.9 second left to put his Spartans up by three. After Shannon Scott airballed a three-point attempt at the other end, the No. 18 Michigan State Spartans had themselves a huge homecourt win over the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes, 59-56, on Saturday night.
Appling finished out the evening with a team-high 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and two steals. He received great support from center Adreian Payne, who finished 5-of-6 from the field for 14 points, as well as guard Branden Dawson, who had nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
However, the efforts of the Spartans were nearly outshone by the one-man wrecking crew that was Deshaun Thomas.
The Ohio State forward hit 10 of his 20 field goal attempts for 28 points, including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc. It was a career high in conference play for one of the best players in the nation’s most competitive leagues in 2012, but after Thomas played in all 40 minutes, Scott was unable to get him the ball in the game’s waning moments.
The Spartans had managed to build an 11-point first half lead, and led by the score of 46-39 midway through the second. However, that lead had disappeared after Thomas hit his career-high sixth three-pointer to tie it at 50 with only three minutes left to play.
The game went back-and-forth from there. Payne put together a three-point play for MSU on the team’s ensuing possession. Ohio State could not answer, but guard Aaron Craft, who is not expected to score but piled up five steals as a defensive star, swiped the ball from Appling and passed to Thomas. Thomas sank two free throws to tie it up with less than a minute remaining.
Appling attacked Craft on the next trip up the court, hitting a go-ahead layup with 41.5 seconds remaining.
When all was said and done, Thomas had hit 10 total free throws, more than the rest of the Buckeyes combined. Ohio State hit four threes while Thomas hit six himself.
However, OSU needed either a fifth from someone on the team or a seventh from Thomas in order to win the game, and in the end, that never happened.
In the rough-and-tough Big Ten, in which great teams take the court against one another each and every night, that was enough for Michigan State, who is able to exhale (at least for one night) following the tight victory.