The veteran point guards were supposed to be the story when No. 3 Ohio State traveled to No. 5 Michigan State on Tuesday night for just the second top-five matchup in the history of the Breslin Center.
Michigan State's Keith Appling and Ohio State's Aaron Craft were magnificent at times in their eighth head-to-head matchup. But Spartans' big man Adreian Payne, who was considered questionable to even play in the game because of right foot sprain and didn't start, made numerous big plays off the bench that earned Michigan State a 72-68 win.
It was the first loss of the season for the Buckeyes, leaving just five undefeated teams in the nation. One of them is fellow Big Ten power Wisconsin, which has the good fortune of not having to make road trips this season to either Ohio State (15-1, 2-1) or Michigan State (13-1, 3-0).
Payne's filthy put-back dunk with just under 12 minutes remaining put the Spartans up by 10 and sent the Michigan State crowd into a frenzy. A minute later, Payne followed it with another equally powerful put-back dunk off a missed 3-pointer from Denzel Valentine and it seemed the Spartans would run away with it.
But Craft led a gritty defensive effort that brought the Buckeyes back from a 17-point deficit to force overtime. Ohio State forced nine turnovers in the final 7 minutes of game, showing why it came in undefeated. Craft cut the lead to one when he threw an inbound pass off of Payne's backside, caught it and scored a layup.
Moments later, Payne hit a free throw on the other end to make it a two-point game. Amir Williams tied it when he threw down a put-back jam of his own off a missed layup from Craft with 21 seconds left.
Michigan State blew its chance at a game-winning attempt when Shannon Scott stole the ball and drove to the bucket with the clock winding down. He missed the layup and Payne batted the ball away as it came off the rim leading to overtime.
Ohio State took an early lead in the extra period, its first lead since the first 7 minutes of the first half, but Kenny Kaminski and Payne hit consecutive 3-pointers for the Spartans and Payne drew a charge on the defensive end.
Payne's 18 points along with Appling fighting off cramps to score 20, including a big shot in overtime, allowed coach Tom Izzo to even up the head-to-head series with counterpart Thad Matta since they've been at their respective schools.
Each legendary coach has beaten the other 10 times now following the Spartans' triumph. Sam Thompson led the Buckeyes with 18 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Michigan State will visit Ohio State for the rematch March 9.
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