EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Deshaun Thomas sliced up Michigan State's defense on Saturday. The Spartans were glad he never touched the ball in the closing seconds.
Thomas, the Big Ten's leading scorer, had 28 points but No. 17 Michigan State held off No. 11 Ohio State in a Big Ten thriller 59-56 at Breslin Center. Keith Appling scored 15 points, including the go-ahead layup in the final minute, as the Spartans (16-3 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) extended their winning streak to five games.
"It was a war and we survived it," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We're doing two things really well. We really fight in the last five minutes and we're finding ways to win. As much as that might frustrate you, like it does me at times, it shows a little character if you can find ways to win."
Thomas kept finding ways to score but didn't get a chance to tie it after Appling made two free throws with 7.8 seconds left. Ohio State guard Shannon Scott dribbled the ball to the left side and launched an off-balance 3-pointer that glanced off the backboard. The Buckeyes, who defeated then No. 2 Michigan on Sunday, dropped to 13-4 and 3-2.
"We were very surprised," Spartans swingman Branden Dawson said. "I was guarding (Thomas) and Scott got the ball and didn't even look his way."
Izzo was prepared to have his players foul if the ball went to Thomas, which he doesn't normally do in that situation.
"I wasn't letting him take that shot," he said. "I thought they'd run a dribble handoff and give it to him. I guess I was relieved but I think we earned the win."
Buckeyes coach Thad Matta downplayed the last shot, saying his team put itself in a tough spot by giving up the game's first 10 points. The Buckeyes never had more than a four-point advantage.
"Michigan State knew we were going to him and they locked down on him," he said. "Obviously, I would have liked to have gotten it there. But you can't start the game the way we started and we had some malfunctions. In the first half, we had nine turnovers and they had seven steals. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be."
Despite Ohio State's slow start, the final minute was filled with suspense. Appling's driving layup past Aaron Craft with 41.5 seconds left put Michigan State in front, 55-53.
"I wanted to try and read how he was playing me," Appling said. "He was a little closer than I expected. I was able to beat him with my first step and get to the basket and finish."
Craft then missed a 3-pointer and Appling made a fast-break dunk for a four-point advantage. Lenzelle Smith's 3-pointer cut it to one with 10.8 seconds remaining before Appling's free throws.
Adreian Payne had 14 points and Branden Dawson added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans, who are 12-0 at home. Craft made five steals to tie Ohio State's all-time steals record of 204 set by Jay Burson (1986-89) but no Buckeye other than Thomas scored more than six points.
"Obviously, you'd like to have everybody in double figures but he was smooth and efficient," Matta said. "It was a tremendous effort by him."
Thomas averaged 7.8 points on 29.7 percent shooting in his four prior games against Michigan State.
"We knew he was going to make shots," said Payne, who guarded Thomas most of the game. "We were just trying to contain him from the 3-point line, because we knew he could shoot it. I was basically trying to trail him and make sure he didn't get any easy shots."
NOTES: Ohio State had won three of the last four meetings at East Lansing. ... Ohio State was the first of eight ranked opponents that Michigan State will play over the next 11 games. ... The Spartans had a 34-25 rebounding advantage. Michigan State has out-rebounded all but one of its opponents this season. ... Appling, who was shooting just 30.8 percent in conference games, went 6 for 13 from the field. ... Spartans coach Tom Izzo has a 21-11 record against Ohio State. ... The teams tied with Michigan for the Big Ten regular-season title last season before the Spartans defeated the Buckeyes for the conference tournament championship.