CHICAGO -- Quick thoughts on Ohio State’s 61-58 win against Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center.
Overview: Ohio State and Michigan State split their two games in the regular season. They’re just built for each other. And that was clear in the first half, which ended with Michigan State holding a 29-28 lead.
Michigan State shot 48 percent from the field in the first half. Derrick Nix was a man in the paint (10 points before halftime). But the Spartans couldn’t pull away from the Buckeyes, even though the latter went 11-for-32 from the field and were outscored 20-10 in the paint before the break.
Ohio State benefited from its ability to protect the ball. The Buckeyes committed just two turnovers before the break.
Turning point: Aaron Craft scored 13 points in the first 10-plus minutes of the second half. A 3-pointer with 11:48 to play gave Ohio State a 48-45 lead. His layup with 9:47 to go gave the Buckeyes a 51-47 advantage. But the Spartans kept fighting. Keith Appling hit a 3-pointer that cut Ohio State’s lead to three points with 3:24 left. Nix’s layup and free throw after he was fouled with 1:54 to play reduced the deficit to one.
But Nix grabbed Craft on a drive with 1:27 to go. Officials called it a flagrant foul. Craft made one of two free throws to extend Ohio State’s lead to two points.
Deshaun Thomas came up with a crucial rebound in the last 45 seconds of the game. And then he hit a runner in the last 30 seconds to give Ohio State a 60-56 lead.
Key player: Craft finished with 20 points, 9 assists, 4 steals and 2 turnovers.
Key stat: Ohio State committed just five turnovers.
Next game: Ohio State will face Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament championship Sunday. Michigan State will compete in the NCAA tournament.