NCAA News Wire

Ohio State 69, Michigan State 67

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sunday was senior day for Ohio State guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.

The rosy-cheeked Craft, a three-time Academic All-American and the Big Ten career steals leader, is recognized as one of the greatest and most popular student-athletes in school history. Smith has been a part of 100 victories in his four years.

In typical Craft fashion, he dived for a rebound with 24.8 seconds left to help preserve the lead, and the Buckeyes held on for a 69-67 victory over No. 22 Michigan State before a sellout crowd in Value City Arena.

Craft, who made a free throw with 20.8 seconds left, finished with 12 points and seven assists.

Forward LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes (23-8, 10-8 Big Ten) with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. Smith added nine points and a team-leading eight rebounds.

Ohio native Adreian Payne played in his home state for the final time with the Spartans (23-8, 12-6), and the senior forward scored a game-high 23 points. Guard Gary Harris contributed 12 points, and guard Denzel Valentine had 11.

Harris, the Spartans’ leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, was shut out in the first half, but he drilled two 3-pointers early in the second half that sparked a 12-0 run after Ohio State went in front 44-42. Dunks by Payne and guard Travis Trice and two free throws by Harris thrust Michigan State back on top 51-44 with 14:59 left.

The Buckeyes rallied to tie at 58 on a 3-pointer by forward Sam Thompson with 8:18 left, and the game remained tight until the end. The Buckeyes overcame poor free-throw shooting in the final minutes, as they made just 10 of 20 from the line in the second half.

With 4:20 left in the first half, Craft broke the Big Ten steals record set by Illinois’ Bruce Douglas in the 1980s. The record-setter led to a three-point play for Ross that tied the score at 31.

Craft followed with a basket on a drive after a Smith steal to give the Buckeyes a 33-31 lead, but Payne responded with a 3-pointer and a dunk to put the Spartans back in front at 36-33.

Ohio State pulled back into a tie on a three-point play by forward Trey McDonald before Michigan State took a 38-36 lead on a basket by point guard Keith Appling in the final seconds of the tightly contested first half.

There were seven ties and five lead changes in the opening 20 minutes. The biggest lead was five points twice by Michigan State, the last with 6:22 remaining in the half.

Payne led the Spartans with 13 first-half points, and Ross had 13 for the Buckeyes. Smith corralled eight rebounds in the opening half.

Valentine started 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point range while scoring eight of the Spartans’ first 13 points, but he was held scoreless for the rest of the half after his basket with 15:15 left.

NOTES: Ohio State suffered its first loss on Jan. 7 at Michigan State after starting the season 15-0 and climbing to a No. 3 national ranking. The Buckeyes rallied from a 17-point deficit in the second half against the Spartans before falling 72-68. … Michigan State is 18-3 when guard/forward Branden Dawson plays and 14-2 when he starts. Dawson missed nine games with a broken right hand. … Michigan State ended a two-game losing streak on Thursday night with an 86-76 home win over Iowa. … Michigan State F Adreian Payne, F Kenny Kaminski and G Travis Trice are from Ohio. Ohio State C Amir Williams and F Trey McDonald are Michigan natives.