OSU captures its home finale

RUSTY MILLER AP Sports Writer Published:

COLUMBUS (AP) -- This was a fitting way for Aaron Craft to close out his final home game.

The hard-nosed point guard led Ohio State's voracious defense down the stretch -- even diving for a big rebound in the final 25 seconds -- helping the Buckeyes rally past No. 22 Michigan State 69-67 on Sunday.

"Probably the poetic justice way to end the game was the way he did it," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

A lot of Buckeyes made big plays down the stretch as the Spartans went scoreless for the final 4:30. Ohio State (23-8, 10-8 Big Ten) scored the final four points.

The Spartans (23-8, 12-6) had the ball with the game tied at 67, but Adreian Payne lost it to Craft with just over a minute left for Michigan State's 16th turnover. Payne finished with 23 points.

Shannon Scott's 14-foot jumper went in and out, but Ohio State's Amir Williams -- a Michigan native -- was fouled on the rebound. The junior, a target for fans who are critical of what they believe is lethargic play, hit the second of two free throws with 37.2 seconds remaining.

Izzo called a timeout to draw up a play, but it was the Buckeyes who drew up a better one.

"We drew the play that they ran against Wisconsin; we actually went through it at shootaround today," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "It was like, 'Chances are, fellas, they might try to run this again.'"

With Williams stuck inside on a screen, athletic Sam Thompson took two quick steps to close quickly, applying pressure to the 6-foot-10 Payne on a 3-pointer with 27 seconds.

"I had to adjust my shot in the air and it came up short," said Payne, an Ohio native who played AAU ball on the same team with Craft and former Buckeye Jared Sullinger.

With the ball bounding loose, Craft went to the floor to control it like a defensive back pouncing on a fumble. The senior was tied up on the play, but the possession arrow favored the Buckeyes with 24.8 seconds remaining.

Craft, who has suffered through a poor shooting year, then was fouled with 20.9 seconds left. He clanked the first but made the second for his 12th point.

The Buckeyes were 19 of 31 at the line for the game. They made two of six foul shots over the final 90 seconds, with Craft's free throw pushing the lead to two.

Gary Harris, who scored 12 points for Michigan State, grabbed the rebound and dribbled to the other end but his off-balance attempt with 2 seconds left was off. Payne crashed the boards but Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State's only other senior, tipped the ball away just before the buzzer sounded.

"I just wanted to keep (Harris) from getting to the basket and try to contest his shot as much as possible," Craft said. "He got a move, got a shot off, and luckily it was short and Lenzelle did a phenomenal job of tipping the ball so Adreian couldn't tip-dunk it to make it go into overtime."

LaQuinton Ross had 22 points for the Buckeyes, who had lost their last two games.

Both Ohio State and Michigan State are headed for the Big Ten tournament this week, and then will move on to the NCAA tourney.

Denzel Valentine added 11 points for the Spartans (23-8, 12-6), who have lost seven of 11.

Izzo was upset that Michigan State was called for 22 personal fouls to 12 against the Buckeyes. The Spartans were hamstrung by foul trouble all game and Harris, Branden Dawson and point guard Keith Appling each finished with four fouls.

But for most of the game, it was Ohio State which took the ball inside or drove to the hoop.

"I didn't like the way all my guys were on the bench," Izzo said. "I didn't like the way we were playing, afraid to foul and afraid to move. We scored enough points to win, we shot well enough to win. They drove the ball and we couldn't keep them in front of us. But I've got two of my best defenders on the bench. There were some bright spots, but a disappointing loss."

Craft had four steals to give him 328, breaking a tie with Illinois' Bruce Douglas to become the Big Ten's career leader.

"I'm not worried about how I'm going to be remembered," he said. "It's all (about) moving forward. This is how we need to continue to play down the stretch. This needs to be our calling card."

No. 2 WICHITA ST. 83, INDIANA ST. 69

ST. LOUIS -- Fred VanVleet scored 13 of his 22 points in the final 6 minutes and No. 2 Wichita State remained the nation's lone unbeaten after defeating Indiana State 83-69 on Sunday in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final.

Tekele Cotton added 20 points -- with four 3-pointers -- and Ron Baker had 14 points for the Shockers (34-0), who got tested in the second half before putting the title game out of reach with a 13-0 run capped by two 3-pointers from VanVleet that put them up by 18 points with 5:38 to go.

Wichita State matched the NCAA record for victories to start the season held by UNLV in 1990-91 with its third straight convincing tournament win after going 18-0 in the conference regular season. The Shockers won their first conference tournament since 1987.

Manny Arop and Justin Gant had 18 points apiece for second-seeded Indiana State (23-10), which has one of the closer calls against Wichita State with a seven-point loss at home in early February.

Wichita State's last nine victories have all been by double digits. The Shockers have won 12 of 14 in the Indiana State series.

MARYLAND 75, No. 5 VIRGINIA 69, OT

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland closed out its 61st and final Atlantic Coast Conference regular season in stunning fashion b y ending Virginia's 13-game winning streak.

After blowing a seemingly secure lead in the closing seconds of regulation, the Terrapins never trailed in the extra session in front of an emotional sellout crowd of 17,950 at the school's final home basketball game in a conference it joined as a charter member in 1953. Maryland moves to the Big Ten next season.

When the final buzzer sounded, thousands of fans stormed the court to celebrate another unforgettable ACC memory at the expense of one of its biggest rivals.

Seth Allen scored five of his 20 points in overtime and Dez Wells finished with 18 for the Terrapins (17-14, 9-9 ACC), who had lost six straight to Virginia, including a 61-53 decision in February.

Anthony Gill scored 15 points and London Perrantes had 14 for Virginia (25-6, 16-2), which had already won the regular season title and was vying to set an ACC record for most league wins during the regular season.

No. 7 SYRACUSE 74, FLORIDA ST. 58

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- C.J. Fair scored 22 points and Syracuse closed the regular season with a victory in the program's first trip to Florida State. The Orange, who ended a two-game losing streak, had lost 4 of 5 after starting the season 25-0.

Jerami Grant, who had been bothered by back problems recently, had 16 points and eight rebounds while Tyler Ennis finished with 16 points for Syracuse (27-4, 14-4 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Okaro White led Florida State with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Ian Miller scored 16 points in his last home game while Aaron Thomas chipped in 14.

The bubble may have burst for Florida State (18-12, 9-9) which desperately needed a signature win at this point of the season to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Syracuse ran away from the Seminoles in the second half behind Fair. The senior forward scored 15 points after halftime, including 10 of the Orange's first 14 to take a 47-40 lead.

NEBRASKA 77, No. 9 WISCONSIN 68

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway scored 26 points apiece, and Nebraska beat Wisconsin to bolster its resume for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Cornhuskers (19-11, 11-7) won for the 10th time in 12 games to clinch fourth place in the Big Ten for their highest conference finish since 1997-98. The Badgers (25-6, 12-6) had their longest conference win streak since 1940-41 end at eight games.

Shields made a couple of free throws, Ray Gallegos hit a 3-pointer and Shields dunked in transition to start a 12-1 run that turned a 52-48 deficit into a 60-53 lead with 5 minutes left.

The Cornhuskers, looking for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998, picked up a second win against a top-10 team for the first time since 1993-94. Their other one was at then-No. 9 Michigan State on Feb. 16. The Huskers won 11 conference games for the first time since 1965-66.

Nebraska also finished with a Big Ten-best 15-1 home record by defeating the conference's best road team.

No. 17 SAINT LOUIS 64, UMASS 62

AMHERST, Mass. -- Jordair Jett scored on a driving layup with 3 seconds to play and Saint Louis snapped a three-game losing streak to win the Atlantic 10 regular season title outright for the second straight season.

Jett finished with 17 points, including the Billikens' last six of the game. Saint Louis (26-5, 13-3 A-10) got its final possession on a jump ball call with 36.4 seconds left. Jett dribbled out the clock near midcourt before starting the game-winning drive.

Chaz Williams, who had 20 points and nine assists for the Minutemen (23-7, 10-6), had a 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounce off the rim.

Saint Louis, which started its losing skid after a school-record 19-game winning streak, didn't lead in the second half until Jett's game-winning shot.

BIG TEN

MINNESOTA 81, PENN ST. 63

MINNEAPOLIS -- Austin Hollins had 14 points and three steals in his last scheduled home game, a fitting senior spark for Minnesota in an 81-63 victory over Penn State on Sunday to set up a rematch between these teams in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

DeAndre Mathieu led the Golden Gophers (19-12, 8-10) with 16 points and six assists, Mo Walker scored 16 points on a career-best 8-for-10 free-throw shooting performance, and Minnesota locked up seventh place in coach Richard Pitino's first season.

D.J. Newbill had 15 of his 24 points in the second half for the Nittany Lions (15-16, 6-12), who tied for 10th in the conference standings with Northwestern and drew the higher seed because they beat the Wildcats earlier this week.

Minnesota and Penn State will play on Thursday in Indianapolis, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals to face Wisconsin.

NORTHWESTERN 74, PURDUE 65

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Drew Crawford had 27 points and seven rebounds and Alex Olah added 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Northwestern to a 74-65 victory over Purdue on Sunday in the regular season finale for both teams.

The Wildcats (13-18, 6-12 Big Ten), who snapped a league-worst seven-game skid, closed out the first half on a 6-2 run to take a 28-21 lead at halftime. Northwestern went on a 9-2 run midway through the second half capped off with a 3-pointer by Sanjay Lumpkin with 11:17 remaining for a 45-32 lead.

Rapheal Davis had 13 points and nine rebounds and A.J. Hammons added 13 points for the Boilermakers (15-16, 5-13), who have lost six straight.

The Big Ten Tournament opens on Thursday on Thursday in Indianapolis.

ATLANTIC SUN

MERCER 68, FLORIDA GULF COAST 60

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mercer guard Langston Hall watched Florida Gulf Coast become the darlings of last season's NCAA tournament with one thought in his mind.

"Man," Hall said, "that could have been us."

This time, it will be. Mercer will do the playing, FGCU will have to do the watching.

There won't be a repeat Dunk City run in this year's NCAA tournament -- not after Mercer captured its first berth in the Big Dance since 1985, beating top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast 68-60 in the Atlantic Sun championship gam, getting the ultimate comeuppance for what happened a year ago when the Eagles took the tournament title on the Bears' home court.

Everyone knows what happened next: Little-known FGCU ran and dunked its way into the Sweet Sixteen. This time, it's Mercer's turn to try and make some magic happen, getting its NCAA ticket after seeing what was an 18-point lead cut all the way down to one, but hanging on to hand the Eagles their third home loss in 33 games over the last two seasons.

A year ago, Mercer coach Bob Hoffman predicted that FGCU would win NCAA games. This time, he sees no reason why his club can't do the same.

BIG SOUTH

COASTAL CAROLINA 76, WINTHROP 61

CONWAY, S.C. -- Cliff Ellis proved he still has a little dancing left in him.

The Coastal Carolina coach was in the thick of a mid-court dance party Sunday as his Chanticleers earned their first NCAA trip in 21 years with a 76-61 victory over Winthrop to win the Big South Conference tournament.

Ellis, who had previously led South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn into the NCAAs, hugged his wife near the end of the game, then joined his players for some celebrating.

"I can still dance a little bit," Ellis said with a grin.

Apparently so.

Coastal Carolina got 22 points from Warren Gillis and 19 from Josh Cameron to reach the NCAA tournament for the third time overall and first since 1993. Ellis has reached the tournament finals on campus twice before as top seeds in 2010 and 2011, coming up short both times.

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