With the NCAA Tournament inching closer, the Ohio State basketball team is in need of some marquee wins to bolster its tournament resume.
The Buckeyes addressed that need Sunday, beating No. 4 Michigan State, 68-60.
The win was OSU’s second in nine attempts against ranked teams this season.
Junior guard Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes in scoring with 21 points, 17 of which came in the second half.
OSU was able to overcome a nine-point second half deficit en route to victory thanks in large part to a 18-4 run that gave OSU a five-point lead it never relinquished.
Junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who finished with 14 points, made two 3-pointers during the Buckeye spurt despite struggling from the field for most of the evening.
Two MSU big men gave the Buckeyes fits on the inside as coach Tom Izzo’s squad fed the post early and often. Junior forward Adreian Payne scored 12 points and grabbed 15 boards while senior forward Derrick Nix added 12 points and six boards of his own.
MSU’s first 10 points of the game came in the paint and by halftime, the Spartans scored 24 points inside. When MSU did shoot from the outside, it normally came on kickouts from the key. Luckily for OSU, the Spartans only connected on 1-of-7 shots (14.3 percent) from behind the arc.
Like MSU, the Buckeyes also struggled to find their shooting touch early, only making 1-of-11 3-pointers in the first half.
OSU tied the score at 25 when sophomore forward Sam Thompson dunked an inbounds pass with 2:18 remaining in the half, bringing the crowd at the Schottenstein Center to its feet.
But MSU was able to shift the momentum by turning two OSU turnovers into points at the other end. The Spartans finished the half on a 6-0 run and took a 31-25 lead into the break.
That lead swelled to nine after the break when freshman guard Gary Harris nailed a 3-pointer from the quarter.
But that’s when OSU embarked on the decisive 18-4 run that gave it a 45-40 lead.
The Spartans crept within two with just under three minutes to play, but a driving layup from Craft and free throw shooting down the stretch allowed OSU to maintain its lead.
The win improves the Buckeyes record to 20-7 overall and 10-5 in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are 2.5 games back of Indiana for first place in the conference.
OSU next plays Thursday against Northwestern. Tip is set for 7 p.m.