CHICAGO — DeShaun Thomas was Ohio State’s indispensable man Saturday as the Buckeyes earned a Big Ten championship game berth with a 61-58 victory over Michigan State at the United Center.
The Buckeye forward collected a key offensive rebound with 58 seconds to play, scored on a layup 33 seconds later and added a free throw with nine seconds left as Ohio State stymied a late Spartans comeback.
Thomas scored 16 points and teammate Aaron Craft had 20 and nine assists as the Buckeyes (25-7) landed a spot against Wisconsin in Sunday’s tournament championship.
Derrick Nix topped Michigan State (25-8) with 17 points and nine rebounds, Keith Appling scored 16 and Adreian Payne added 12.
Ohio State jumped in front early in the second half on a Lenzelle Smith Jr. layup but struggled to create breathing room until the the 7:23 mark after Craft hit back-to-back jumpers for a 55-49 lead.
But the Buckeyes couldn’t seal the deal. Appling hit a 3-pointer with 3:24 left and Nix added a 3-point play with 1:54 remaining to nearly erase the Ohio State lead.
Trailing 57-56 with 1:27 left in regulation, Michigan State was hit with a flagrant foul, Craft hit a free throw to push the lead to 58-56 and the Buckeyes retained possession.
Shannon Scott’s subsequent baseline 3-point try failed, but Thomas secured the offensive rebound. He scored on a layup, added a defensive rebound and hit a free throw for a 61-56 lead.
Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine’s jumper with one second left narrowed the final margin.
Continue Reading: Ohio State 61, Michigan State 58 (The SportsXchange)