COLUMBUS, Ohio – All year long Ohio State’s fans wondered whether Aaron Craft – one of the nation’s top defenders – would ever make major contributions at the other end of the court.
He picked the perfect time to finally break loose.
Craft continually slashed through the lane for a career-high 21 points Sunday – more than he had scored in the last three games combined – to lead the 18th-ranked Buckeyes to a 68-60 victory over No. 4 Michigan State.
Give Aaron Craft credit. In the second half, he tore us apart, Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. It was Aaron Craft. He beat us every way you could beat us.
The pesky, bothersome junior defensive specialist hit 7 of 12 shots – almost all of them on drives through a thicket of players in the paint.
The loss crippled the Spartans’ hopes of catching up with top-ranked Indiana, which now leads the Big Ten race by two games with four remaining.
Freshman Gary Harris had 14 points, Derrick Nix 12 and Adreian Payne 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Spartans (22-6, 11-4), who have dropped two in a row after winning 11 of 12.
It also boosted Ohio State’s flagging postseason résumé.
Counting a 56-53 win over No. 2-ranked Michigan on Jan. 13, it was the first time that Ohio State has ever beaten two top-5 teams at home in the same season.
Bishop Luers graduate Deshaun Thomas added 12 of his 14 points in the second half for the Buckeyes (20-7, 10-5), who stand fifth in the conference. Evan Ravenel added 10 points and a crucial block in the final minute.
No. 6 DUKE 89, BOSTON COLLEGE 68: In Durham, N.C., freshman Rasheed Sulaimon scored a season-high 27 points as the Blue Devils (24-3, 11-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) put the game out of reach by halftime.
Mason Plumlee added 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Blue Devils.
Ryan Anderson scored 23 points to lead the Eagles (12-15, 4-10).
No. 7 MICHIGAN 71, ILLINOIS 58: In Ann Arbor, Mich., Trey Burke had 26 points and eight assists to help Michigan bounce back from a slow start
The Wolverines (23-4, 10-4 Big Ten) shook off a sluggish first half to win consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month.
The Illini (20-9, 7-8) had won five straight.
No. 20 PITTSBURGH 63, ST. JOHN’S 47: In New York, Tray Woodall scored a season-high 25 points, including two huge three-pointers in the second half, and the Panthers (21-7, 9-6 Big East), snapped a two-game losing streak.
Lamar Patterson had 11 points for Pitt.