Buckeyes score last 4 in 69-67 win over No. 22 MSU

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - This was a fitting way for Aaron Craft to close out his final home game.

The hard-nosed point guard led Ohio State’s voracious defense down the stretch - even diving for a big rebound in the final 25 seconds - helping the Buckeyes rally past No. 22 Michigan State 69-67 on Sunday.

“Probably the poetic justice way to end the game was the way he did it,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I give him a lot of credit for that.”

A lot of Buckeyes made big plays down the stretch as the Spartans went scoreless for the final 4:30. Ohio State (23-8, 10-8 Big Ten) scored the final four points.

The Spartans (23-8, 12-6) had the ball with the game tied at 67, but Adreian Payne lost it to Craft with just over a minute left for Michigan State’s 16th turnover. Payne finished with 23 points.

Shannon Scott’s 14-foot jumper went in and out, but Ohio State’s Amir Williams - a Michigan native - was fouled on the rebound. The junior, a target for fans who are critical of what they believe is lethargic play, hit the second of two free throws with 37.2 seconds remaining.

Izzo called a timeout to draw up a play, but it was the Buckeyes who drew up a better one.

“We drew the play that they ran against Wisconsin; we actually went through it at shootaround today,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “It was like, ‘Chances are, fellas, they might try to run this again.’”

With Williams stuck inside on a screen, athletic Sam Thompson took two quick steps to close quickly, applying pressure to the 6-foot-10 Payne on a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left.

“I had to adjust my shot in the air and it came up short,” said Payne, an Ohio native who played AAU ball on the same team with Craft and former Buckeye Jared Sullinger.

With the ball bounding loose, Craft went to the floor to control it like a defensive back pouncing on a fumble. The senior was tied up on the play, but the possession arrow favored the Buckeyes with 24.8 seconds remaining.

Craft, who has suffered through a poor shooting year, then was fouled with 20.9 seconds left. He clanked the first but made the second for his 12th point.

The Buckeyes were 19 of 31 at the line for the game. They made two of six foul shots over the final 90 seconds, with Craft’s free throw pushing the lead to two.

Gary Harris, who scored 12 points for Michigan State, grabbed the rebound and dribbled to the other end but his off-balance attempt with 2 seconds left was off. Payne crashed the boards but Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State’s only other senior, tipped the ball away just before the buzzer sounded.

“I just wanted to keep (Harris) from getting to the basket and try to contest his shot as much as possible,” Craft said. “He got a move, got a shot off, and luckily it was short and Lenzelle did a phenomenal job of tipping the ball so Adreian couldn’t tip-dunk it to make it go into overtime.”

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