East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The Michigan State athletic program is having quite the start to 2014.
Less than a week after the Spartans' football team pulled out the school's first Rose Bowl win in 26 years, the fifth-ranked men's basketball squad handed No. 3 Ohio State its first loss of the season with a thrilling 72-68 overtime victory on Tuesday.
It certainly wasn't easy.
Michigan State (14-1, 3-0 Big Ten) squandered a 17-point lead late in regulation and needed a Keith Appling 3-pointer with 27.5 seconds left in overtime to break a 66-66 tie.
Appling added three free throws from there to cap his 20-point effort and the Spartans' seventh straight win. Adreian Payne battled through a right foot sprain to pour in 18 points off the bench, while Gary Harris supplied 13 points in the hard-fought decision.
The Buckeyes (15-1, 2-1) lost despite scoring 17 of the final 20 points in regulation. Sam Thompson led the comeback and finished with 18 points.
Ohio State appeared poised to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten in regulation when Appling's bucket off a turnover pushed Michigan State's already comfortable cushion to 55-38 with 8:02 left.
The Spartans, though, suddenly became sloppy with the ball themselves, and Ohio State crept back in it with free throws, easy buckets and several hustle plays from Aaron Craft.
Thompson scored on four of five Buckeyes possessions, and Craft converted a three-point play with 2:02 remaining, cutting the deficit to 57-54.
After trading turnovers, Craft dove on the floor for a loose ball and called timeout, which led to another layup by the senior guard after he bounced the inbounds pass off the backside of an unsuspecting Michigan State defender.
With 42.3 seconds left, Payne made 1-of-2 from the foul line to give the Spartans a 58-56 edge, and Amir Williams cleaned up a Craft miss at the other end with a two-handed slam to suddenly even things.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo opted not to call a timeout, and Appling lost the ball at midcourt with time winding down. Appling did not give up on the play and challenged a driving Shannon Scott at the rim, and Payne knocked a potential tip-in away from Thompson just before the buzzer sounded.
Overtime was nearly just as heart-pounding.
Consecutive 3-pointers from Kenny Kaminski and Payne gave Michigan State a 65-61 lead with just over two minutes to play, and a Thompson triple a minute later tied it at 66-66 just before Appling pulled up from the top of the key and rattled in the deciding 3-pointer.
After trading free throws, Marc Loving was forced into a tough shot along the perimeter on Ohio State's final possession and missed badly. Appling grabbed the rebound and hit a game-sealing free throw to end the madness.
"To lose a lead like that, it's hard to feel good about," admitted Izzo. "I still think it says something about a team that loses a 17-point lead then comes back to win it."
A typical Big Ten struggle permeated the first half, with both teams shooting less than 38 percent from the floor.
Michigan State scored the final seven points to take a 28-21 lead into the break as Payne made consecutive jumpers and Kaminski drilled a 3-pointer over the final three minutes.
Ohio State, which came in averaging 10.3 turnovers per game, committed 10 in the first half alone and gave it away three more times during a 13-2 run that extended the Spartans' lead to 50-34 with just over 10 minutes to play.
Denzel Valentine began the surge with a 3-pointer and added a steal that led to an Appling layup, and Payne threw down a pair of dunks, including a rim- rattling putback slam that sent the Breslin Center aflutter.
"I'm proud we came back, but we weren't as sharp as we needed to be in this caliber of a game," said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta.