Craft Leads Buckeyes Past Michigan State

By Kyle Rowland on February 24, 2013 at 6:16p
Sam Thompson scored 2 of his 8 on a sweet jam off an inbounds play.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – All season long Ohio State has preached defense. It’s been the offensively-challenged Buckeyes’ key to hanging with elite opponents. But for the first 25 minutes on Sunday against Michigan State, defense was a missing link.

Then Thad Matta called a timeout.

The fourth-ranked Spartans led by six at the half thanks to a late 6-0 run and then hit a 3 to open the second half. After Deshaun Thomas countered with a 3 of his own to cut the lead to six, Matta quickly called a timeout.

No. 18 Ohio State responded with a 24-5 run, taking a double-digit lead. The Buckeyes never trailed again, winning 68-60.

“He just said he wanted us to be aggressive on defense, get some stops and create some turnovers,” Thomas said of Matta’s fiery message. “Momentum was on our side. That was big. Our defense led to our offense.

“When we become a defensive team, we can be the best in the country. That’s what it takes, energy and effort. We got back to our defensive principles and played hard.”

And that was precisely what happened. The blue-collar Buckeyes forced Michigan State into 14 turnovers – eight in the second half – and scored 19 points off of them. This after the Spartans shot 50 percent from the field in the first half. And that includes a 1-of-7 mark from long range. Counting only two-pointers, Michigan State connected on a robust 63 percent of its shots in the half. Twenty-four of Michigan State’s 31 first-half points came in the paint.

“I just said, ‘Enough, this has got to change,’” said Matta, about his animated expression during the timeout. “Fortunately, it did. They got the message today, and that was just a light version.”

It was Aaron Craft who engineered the dramatics on both ends of the court. He finished with a career-high 21 points, three rebounds, six assists and a steal. It was the breakout performance Ohio State has been waiting for from Craft.

Better late than never.

“Give Aaron Craft credit,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “In the second half, he tore us apart. He beat us every way you can beat us.”

On the defensive end, Craft forced Michigan State point guard Keith Appling into three turnovers and an underwhelming 1-of-6 showing from the field. Appling had just one rebound and one assist.

“He’s the best defender in college basketball, no question about it,” Matta said.

Craft’s offense provided Ohio State with a major boost as Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, had a rare off day. Michigan State limited him to 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

Taking it upon himself to help produce offense, Craft drove to the hoop time and again with little resistance from the Spartan defense. A handful of Craft’s seven field goals were layups.

Izzo thought the point guard was more aggressive going to rim than he’s been in the past, and he was right.

“After watching the first game, (Michigan State) did a great job of playing downhill,” Craft said. “I don’t think anyone did a good job of challenging their bigs.”

After combining for only six points in the first half, Craft and Thomas tallied 29 after the break. The entire roster caught fire. Ohio State shot a dismal 34.5 percent in the first 20 minutes, but after a stern talking to from Matta, the Buckeyes found a rhythm that had been in hiding.

They shot 12 of 21 in the second half, including 4 of 7 from three-point range.

“Fifty-seven percent shooting in the second half, that shouldn’t happen,” Izzo said.

Evan Ravenel also got involved, scoring seven early points and finishing with 10 for the game, including two clutch free throws in the closing minutes. But it was a ferocious blocked shot that sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

With 25 seconds left, Michigan State had the ball down five points when Appling thought it was a good idea to attempt a layup with Ravenel waiting at the hoop. The ball ended up being swatted out to Shannon Scott near the three-point line, extinguishing the Spartans’ chances of winning.

“I thought Rav was as effective as he can be,” Matta said. “I was very, very pleased with how he played.”

Dayton native Adreian Payne helped keep the Spartans in the ballgame, though. He had 10 rebounds in the first half and finished with 15 for the game. He also scored 12 points, with a block and a steal. Payne has developed into a bit of nuisance for the Buckeyes, playing at his best against his homestate school.

It was Payne who helped limit Thomas to his worst offensive output of the season.

“I think Adreian Payne has been our most improved player this season, there’s no question,” Izzo said. “He’s done it with his brains, skills, rebounding, added strength. For him to defend was the final chapter. He took some pride in that. Adreian Payne has done a lot of good for us.”

Gary Harris led Michigan State with 14 points, but his offense took a slide after halftime. The Spartans’ Big Ten title hopes took a severe hit with the loss. They are now two games behind first-place Indiana with three games to play.

The win is just Ohio State’s second against a ranked opponent in nine tries this season. But both wins have come against top-five teams – No. 2 Michigan and No. 4 Michigan State. Conversely, four of the losses have been to teams ranked inside the top 10.

The Buckeyes sit alone in fifth place, a half-game behind Michigan. The top four get a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. It was also win No. 20 for Ohio State, meaning Matta is a perfect 13 for 13 in 20-plus win seasons as a head coach.

“I hope it propels us in terms of guys trusting the system,” he said. “We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of college basketball. The adversity they fought and overcame – I’m proud of them. We’ll find out Thursday night if it paid off.”

That would be in quirky Welsh-Ryan Arena against gritty Northwestern, a team that always seems to baffle the Buckeyes

“We can’t overlook Northwestern,” Thomas said. “We have to come back tomorrow and continue to get better.”



Comments Show All Comments

Killer nuts's picture

Great win, gotta love Craft. Congrats to Thad on another 20 win season

KE's picture

Still a chance to make it three straight 30-wins seasons.

KE's picture

I think Matta is 14 - 0 for 20-win seasons, not 13. Two at Butler, three at Xavier, and this is his 9th at OSU.

KE's picture

Nope, I'm wrong. Just 1 at Butler.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Fear The Broom and Craft badger!!!!!!!!!!!!

frozen buckeye's picture

Let's hear from the naysayers now...I remember something about getting beat by northwestern or minn in the tourney.  

Urban Ohio's picture

This is the effort want we want when we complain. We just want them to play with the passion of the fans. Nice game boys. It's a good day to be a Buckeye in the Great state of Ohio.

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

UrbzRenewal's picture

There's still a high possibility of losing to anyone in the B1G. The league is absolutely ridiculous this year.

BME_Buckeye's picture

Great win guys. Some how I feel dirty winning this game because it benefits Michigan. O well! 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


Hovenaut's picture

Way to finish Buckeyes, great game Aaron Craft.

AndyVance's picture

Outstanding quality win today - great to see the guys step up and pull it together against a ranked team.

buckeyenut10's picture

I know Craft (swoon) is going to get all the attention for this game (and not unjustifiably either), but did anyone else notice Ravenel having a career game as well? He's usually good for what, 2 points, 4 fouls, and a rebound or two? I've been down on him in the past, but boy did he play out of his mind tonight.

AndyVance's picture

I thought the same thing - Evan and Aaron both stepped up today.

painterlad's picture

This. Plus he only missed one (maybe two?) free throws when the game was getting tight.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

Citrus's picture

Completely agree. Ravenel seemed to come up with a play when one was needed. He seems to provide a lift off the bench.  Of course Thomas picked a good time to start hitting shots.

thatlillefty's picture

Ravi's foul-to-minute ratio has to be off the charts. I think it has to do with his strength; anytime he touches someone, they're knocked off balance and he's called for the foul.
He played a great game today though. Hope he keeps it up.

AndyVance's picture

It's the curse of the big man - they've talked about that for a few years now in the NBA, going back to Shaq of course, but I think you're starting to see it a little in the NCAA as well. I'm curious to see how that mindset plays out by the time we get a true big-time big man at Ohio State.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

We seem to match up pretty well with the two teams up north -- something to watch for as we approach the B1G Tournament.
That second half was probably our best half of basketball since the first half at Cameron.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

AndyVance's picture

Totally agree about the second half - it's pretty amazing to think that with just a little more effort at Duke in the second half, and a little extra something up in Ann Arbor, this could be a much different season.
Oh well, smoke 'em if you got 'em and enjoy this win, right? Go Bucks!

Poison nuts's picture

Absolutely a win. Gives me a good deal of confidence for the remainder of the season. More importantly, it should give them a good deal of confidence....Now if they can just get a win at Indiana, things will look much brighter indeed.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

AndyVance's picture

It's fascinating at how much better we match up against the teams from That State Up North than we do against the Hoosiers... Hopefully today gives the guys a shot in the shorts and lets them play with some swagger over there. At least we have two quality wins now, helping polish our resume a bit going into Selection Sunday.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Getting a win at Indiana would be amazing though, I just don't see it happening. 

Poison nuts's picture

I think they'll play with a sense of urgency in that they'll be looking for a good win on the road. Not saying they'll win, this conference is tough as nails on the road, but I expect a good game & hopefully a surprise.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

WiliestBuckeye's picture

Great game by Craft. He put them on his back at times today.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

RedStorm45's picture

26-7 run in the 2nd half was the difference.
Hard to believe we won despite not great shooting.

buckeye4life050233's picture

boy they did almost everything wrong to give this game away as well.....this B1G basketball season is murder......hopefully we can sneak into the 4 spot for the tourny and get a buy on the first day

CALPOPPY's picture

I kinda don't want a bye on the first day...I'm going to the tourney and want to see OSU a bunch if possible. Although we could win or lose against almost any B1G team.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

TheShookster's picture

Hopefully this game shuts up people saying craft should be benched. Even though you can't expect him to score 21 every game, saying he needs to be benched is just ridiculous 

He ain't even stretch doe!!

AndyVance's picture

Benched, no, but his performance in this game was worlds better than his performance in a couple of the ugly losses. Hopefully he keeps up this level of intensity and execution throughout March!

TheShookster's picture

I know it was a small minority of people saying that but it was still ridiculous. I agree with you and I also hope they keep this up!

He ain't even stretch doe!!

Citrus's picture

I don't think intensity is ever his issue. If Craft could just consistently hit jumpers (esp 3s) this team would be far more dangerous.

TheShookster's picture

Absolutely. Law of averages says they have to start falling right? 

He ain't even stretch doe!!

AndyVance's picture

Point well taken, but there is a difference between intensity and stress, at least in the context I was thinking as I typed that. We've talked quite a bit about how much poorer DT shoots when he's feeling like he has to carry the squad in big games, and I'd say Aaron was feeling a similar pressure in those ugly losses that contributed to his brick-laying.

Citrus's picture

Yeah agreed. We saw that with Thomas today. Once it was established he didn't need to be 100% of the offense, Thomas played much better.
Also --- how nice was the inbounds Slam Thompson dunk?

AndyVance's picture

Just waiting for the gif :)

tampa buckeye's picture

Thanks for reminding me that was the dunk of the year hands down.  Talk about dunking on somebody! Straight nasty.  

tampa buckeye's picture

He did have the 1 out of 11 in the first half... I think.  He carried them in the second half.  
Two good games back to back maybe they can be hitting on all cylinders just in time for march.  Would love to see them go into Bloomington and kick IU's ass.

Citrus's picture

People are saying that? Have they ever watched him play?

Urban Ohio's picture

This is the effort want we want when we complain. We just want them to play with the passion of the fans. Nice game boys. It's a good day to be a Buckeye in the Great state of Ohio.

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

OSUAndy07's picture


"But I'm tryin' Ringo. I'm tryin', real hard, to be the shepherd"

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Matta deserves credit for this game as well. A couple of things happened today that were not happening these past couple of weeks.
1) Amir and Rav stayed out of foul trouble early. Yes, Amir picked up his fourth late, but for the most part we stayed out of foul trouble.
2) The bigs did an ok job on the boards. Payne is the best rebounding PF in the nation. Yes, he plays PF most of the game when Nix is at C. DT isn't big or athletic enough to keep him off the glass (even if DT put in the effort, which isn't always there). Second half we did a better job of keeping them off the offensive glass.
3) We attacked the basket, especially Craft. This provided scoring outside of DT. Huge. 
4) Our bench played well. Scott and Rav were great, and Q hit some big shots. Matta has been criticized in the past for only playing 6 or 7 guys, but played a solid 8 today, all quality minutes.
5) Matta also adjusted. Scott played a lot more and L less in the 2nd half. L was bad, and Matta adjusted his normal rotation.
Great game for the Bucks. Three games left in the B1G: @NW, @IU and ILL. Hopefully we use this game to build some momentum going into March.

AndyVance's picture

Great points, and hopefully those ugly losses game him enough film to figure out how to keep making those adjustments for a nice deep run in March. Adjustments are the key for this team, I think, because obviously we don't have a benchful of superstars as we've had in the past - a yeoman's team of workhorses who, when properly attuned, have the capability to win over some upper-class competition.
I'm not swayed that they'll be able to take down the Hoosiers on their best day, yet, but very few teams in the country are probably confident they can do so, either. A guy can hope, though!

GABuckeye's picture

#5 is the most important to me.  Lenzelle has the ugliest shot I've ever seen and is not good for anything offensively in most games.

ILbuckeyes's picture

Aaron Craft's jumper is way uglier than Lenzelle's

moopdawg's picture

He hit a big 3 today.  Pretty sure his 3 gave us the lead and we never looked back.  He's come up big offensively in a few games, but he just isn't very consistent.  Offensively, nobody on this team is very consistent except for Thomas.  Good team win today, though.  Everybody contributed.

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Yea, Smith's consistency is a problem and it is to the point that if he's not on, Matta is now confident enough in his bench to put another guy in and see what they've got.  I'm a big fan of Lenzelle and think he gets dogged on here more than he deserves.  For what he lacks in talent and consistency, he makes up with effort.  Great win though.  Just shows what we can do when we show up - we can play with anyone.

Read my entire screen name....

Clmm297's picture

Wish I could give you a +1, but I don't yet have voting power!!
Matta always gets far too much criticism for losses, so it's great to see some praise after a win.  I didn't get to see the entire game, but the last 12 minutes were great.  I thought the game plan and most importantly, the execution, were both in sync like no other game this season.  This team is capable of beating the B1G's best teams.  Let's all hope they can keep it together for the B1G tourney and the NCAA tourney.

Baroclinicity's picture

Great win. Loved seeing us turn the momentum after giving up possessions at the end of the first half.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

CowCat's picture

Way to go bucks!

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

bucknut24's picture

I am glad they won but I don't get why Thompson gets so many minutes.  Does nothing on offense, plays average D and doesn't rebound even though he is 6'7.  Matta should play Ross more because he is a threat to score.  Can't stand watching our guards drive and kick to someone who can't shoot.  All he does is give the ball back to the guards.

ILbuckeyes's picture

His defense is actually very good.  What we needed at the end was defense not scoring. When we needed scoring in the first half Q played the majority of the minutes. Also, Sam's shot has been developing pretty well. Pretty sure he shot 2-3 from 3 today

Squirrel Master's picture

Sam Thompson did a lot that doesn't show up on the stat sheets. He had some huge plays and I don't care what you say, his huge dunks are insulting to the other team. It gets the buckeyes pumped up!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Squirrel Master's picture

I don't agree this is the signature win. There was a #2 ranked UM team that OSU beat. Just saying that this isn't the only big win.
Wasn't pretty but lots of good things there. Finish strong!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Nick's picture

Was happy to see Williams not get in early foul trouble. Craft should focus more on getting to the basket every game, him shooting a three is like a turnover. 

tdible2132's picture

Today was very encouraging, some guys stepped up big and it appears that our defense is back on track. If the defense can continue to be our backbone, and different guys can step up at different times offensively, our March outlook could be a lot better than I thought was even possible a week ago. Good win, I will savor this one in case we regress again though.

Knarcisi's picture

We had someone score 20 and it wasn't Thomas. Our D gave them fits, and the effort was there today. 

BoFuquel's picture


I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Great win today, lots of intensity and hustle, and imho, Sparty is lucky is what that close. Craft had quite a few nice drives tonight. helluva big win, glad Thad reached 20, again.

"2014 National with it!!!"

bucksfan92's picture

Very glad to get the W today, and maybe they are finally starting to turn the corner.  I still wish this team would put together 2 good halves, and I wish we wouldn't let up off the gas when we get a 10 point lead, but it sure would be nice to win out and get a bye in the B1GT. Although I really could care less how we do in that tournament, it would be nice to get 2 games in Dayton for the real tourney.

ILbuckeyes's picture

Can i get a video or .gif of Thompson's dunk today?

BuckeyeSouth's picture

Great win, but damn, Amir has hands of stone. 

Champions.  Undisputed.  

Eric1347's picture

No doubt... Hands like feet

moopdawg's picture

yup.  wish McDonald would get some of his minutes.  He seems way more explosive and I like his energy.  The only problem with McDonald is when you foul him, it's almost like a Buckeye turnover. 

dubjayfootball90's picture

Beautiful game. Got a little dicey at the end, though we were going to implode with careless play after we were up by 8/9/10 or so. But damn, they played their hearts out on defense down the stretch. Real proud of those kids, now that is Buckeye Basketball!!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Eric1347's picture

Much needed win!! Taking care of the ball and making free throws ...something new, those two things will always make a huge difference in any game,lets hope they can build on this although I still can't figure out why LS jr. Is a starter GO BUCKS

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Big win against a team that undoubtedly came in looking for a road win rebound from their loss to Indiana. It doesn't look like this team's going to have too many cakewalks the rest of the way, so expect nail-biting, shot-clock exhausting finishes like today. One thing we simply have to do better is to get the ball in Tank's hands on every possession down the stretch, even if it's just in the perimeter weave and a quick handoff. Too many trips down the court where we didn't work hard enough in getting a Thomas touch.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Great win.  Loved the defense in the 2nd half, and loved that DT didn't score 26 this time yet OSU scored more than 59.  More guys stepping up.  How about Craft?  How about Ravenel?

Class of 2010.

gobucks96's picture

Huge win! Love to see someone else helping out on offense with Thomas. Shot well from the free throw line too!

WolverineKiller's picture

I was sad I couldn't watch the game live and deliver the typical banter.  With that being said the game reminded me of why I have a bro-mance with Craft.  This game reminded me of his freshman and sophomore campaigns. 

Just Win.