Deshaun’s Beast Mode Not Enough to Beat Spartans
By Brandon Castel
EAST LANSING, Mich. — On Friday, Deshaun Thomas called himself a mismatch nightmare. On Saturday, he showed a soldout crowd at the Breslin Center why.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State’s All-American forward torched Michigan State for 28 points and seven rebounds. He hit every big shot for the 11th-ranked Buckeyes down the stretch, including six threes, but it still wasn’t enough to pull off another crucial road win in East Lansing.
Point guard Aaron Craft misfired on a wide-open three from the corner that would have given the Buckeyes a one-point lead in the final seconds. Michigan State point guard Keith Appling raced down the floor for a breakaway dunk and Shannon Scott could not connect on his game-tying heave from long distance as the 18th-ranked Spartans held on for a narrow 59-56 victory on their home floor.
“I don't know if it was pretty to watch, but it was a great game,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said after watching Scott’s three fall harmlessly to the court.
“This is why you play, man. This is a classic game. It was a war and we survived it.”
The Spartans (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten) coughed up an early 12-point lead as Thomas tied the game at 50 on a three from the top of the arc with just 2:59 to play. Adrien Payne, who was matched up with Thomas at both ends of the floor, scored a 3-point play at the other end of the court.
Keith Appling scored two big buckets in the final 41 seconds to put Michigan State ahead by four with just 17 seconds left, but Ohio State junior Lenzelle Smith Jr. connected from long range. His three made it a 57-56 game with 13 seconds left. Appling hit both free throws, setting up a potential game-tying shot, presumably for Thomas, who had been on fire for most of the night.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Instead, Scott raced the ball up the floor and lobbed an off-balance shot at the rim with 3.9 seconds on the clock. Thomas never touched it and the Buckeyes lost by three, falling to 13-4 on the season and 3-2 in conference play.
“Michigan State knew we were going to go to him and they had locked down on him,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have got it there, but one play didn’t lose us that game. You can’t start 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, but I give our guys credit. They fought back in it and made it a basketball game.”
The Buckeyes spotted the Spartans the first 10 points of the game before Sam Thompson finally scored on a putback with just over 15 minutes left in the first half. Ohio State was down 13-2 out of the gates, making just one shot while turning the ball over five times in the first seven minutes of the game.
“I think it was the physicality of how they started the game,” Matta added.
“We just weren’t as strong as we needed to be in terms of finishing the plays and connecting the dots the way we needed to. We have been in some tough environments and this was no different, obviously.”
Izzo called it one of the better crowds they have had at the Breslin Center “in years.” He said it gave his guys, who were tired because they only rotated seven guys, the energy they needed to finish the game.
Ohio State brought Scott off the bench at the 13:10 mark of the first half and immediately ripped off a 15-0 run to take a 17-13 lead over Michigan State with 6:43 to play in the first half.
Payne knocked down a three and Scott went back to the bench in favor of Aaron Craft. The Spartans quickly hit back-to-back threes from Appling and Denzel Valentine. They closed out the half on a 13-9 run and took a 30-26 lead into the locker rooms.
The Buckeyes stalled again coming out early in the second half, but Thomas quickly went right back into Beast Mode. He knocked down a three to open the half that cut Michigan State’s lead to one and his next one tied the game at 32-all.
Thomas, who had 10 points in the first half, scored 18 in the second half as the rest of his teammates struggled to put the ball in the basket. He finished with a game-high 28 points on 10-20 shooting. He was 6-11 behind the arc and grabbed seven rebounds in 40 minutes.
“I am impressed with Thomas. I thought he was a guy who just shot volume shots for a couple years, but he’s really grown into a guy who works hard to get his shots,” Izzo said of Ohio State’s preseason All-American.
“They work to get him shots and if he gets ‘this much’ room it’s going in.”
His three from the top of the arc tied the game at 50 with less than three minutes to play, but Thomas would take just one more shot the rest of the game. Craft missed a go-ahead three with 23 seconds left, but Smith knocked his down, after a pair of pump-fakes, with 13 ticks on the clock.
That set up the final series, in which Appling hit his free throws and Scott missed on an ill-advised three where he was trying to draw a foul from Michigan State. According to Izzo, they were only going to foul if the ball was in the hands of Thomas at the end.
“If they would have handed it off, we would have fouled him. I wasn’t letting him shoot unless it was up on a mountain, even then it might go in,” Izzo said with a slight chuckle.
“We thought they were going to run a dribble handoff and give it to him. So we would have fouled him with three seconds left. I don’t normally make a habit of that, I just had that much respect for him. He wasn’t a normal guy, it was him and at 6-7 I didn’t want to give him nothing.”
Thomas finished with as many points as the rest of his teammates combined. Smith was the second-leading scorer with six points, while Craft, Scott and LaQuinton Ross each finished with five points.
Craft also had six assists, four turnovers and five steals, tying him with Jay Burson (204) for Ohio State’s all-time steals record in a career. He’s barely been in the program for 2.5 years.
Appling led Michigan State with 15 points and four rebounds while Payne added 14 and five. Wing Branden Dawson made some big plays on the offensive glass, and he finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Spartans outrebounded Ohio State 34-25 and outscored them by a 34-14 margin in the paint.
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