The conference battle in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday evening was setting of an exciting battle between The Ohio State University Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans. The Buckeyes won with a dominating second half performace finishing 68-60. The number four ranked Spartans were going into Columbus with hopes of rebounding back from a close loss to the top ranked Indiana Hoosiers on Tuesday. The Buckeyes, ranked 18th in the nation, were looking to use its home court advantage to exact revenge on the Spartans from when they fell 59-56 in East Lansing, Michigan on January 19th.
Ohio State’s top defender finally came out of his shell. Guard Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes with 21 points, many of them from driving the lanes and scoring in the paint. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo credits Craft for cancelling out any defense the Spartans made. “Give Aaron Craft credit. In the second half, he tore us apart,” said Izzo. Another big win in the game for the Buckeye’s was shutting down Spartan guard Keith Appling. The junior co-captain, who has averaged 13.4 points per game this season, was held to only three in the 34 minutes he played.
Michigan State ended the first half up 31-25, and only needed to play tight defense for 20 minutes in order to keep up in the Big Ten race. They just didn’t count on Aaron Craft and the Buckeyes shredding their defense with a 18-5 point run, finishing the second half 43-29 Ohio State. With Appling being shut down, much of the scoring came from guard Gary Harris with 14 points, and centers Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, each with 12. "The game came down to us defending," said coach Izzo "That's what we're usually pretty good at, and we're not very good right now."
The Spartans now sit two games behind the Hoosiers for the Big Ten lead. With three games left, including one in Ann Arbor against seventh ranked rival University Of Michigan, their hopes of clinching a regular season title look grim.
Ohio State on the other hand, while sitting in the middle of conference standings, has just increased their chances of a good seed in the NCAA tournament in March. With three games left, including one at Indiana, the Buckeyes look to prove they are still a force to be reckoned with, especially with the strong play of Aaron Craft.
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