EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State might have a championship-caliber team if it can get and keep its top players healthy.
Of course, Medina High graduate Kenny Kaminski, a redshirt freshman, will also play a role.
Keith Appling made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 29 seconds left in overtime and finished with 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds despite playing with cramps in both legs while helping the fifth-ranked Spartans beat Big Ten rival and No. 3 Ohio State 72-68 Tuesday night after blowing a 17-point lead in the second half.
“Keith was getting worked on during every timeout from halftime on,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Adreian Payne didn’t start because of a right foot sprain, but finished with 18 points in 32 minutes.
“I got to talk to the doctors and figure it out,” Payne said of his injury.
Gary Harris scored 13 points, but the sophomore shooting guard wasn’t able to play up to his potential because of a lingering ankle injury.
Travis Trice, one of the team’s top reserves, didn’t play because he was “sick,” according to Izzo.
The 6-foot-9 Kaminski did his part, scoring nine points on three 3-pointers, including a clutch one that put the Spartans up three with less than 3 minutes to play in OT.
Michigan State, which beat then-No. 1 Kentucky nearly two months ago, has won seven straight games since losing to North Carolina.
“It sounds like an excuse, but we are so beat up,” Izzo said. “I probably should be happier than I am, I guess, considering the circumstances.”
The Spartans (14-1, 3-0) led 55-38 but the Buckeyes forced overtime with a 20-3 run to close regulation.
“We kind of let our foot off the gas,” Appling said.
During the collapse, Izzo yelled at Denzel Valentine and grabbed his jersey to turn the sophomore guard toward him during a timeout.
“I talked to (Valentine) about all the fancy stuff and one of these days, he’ll figure it out,” Izzo recalled, lamenting one of Valentine’s turnovers. “Good player. I love him to death. But he’s going to learn tough lessons and it would’ve been a tough lesson if we would’ve lost the game because we didn’t do some of the things we’re supposed to do.”
Izzo was also upset that junior forward Branden Dawson had just four rebounds — all in the first half — leading to the Buckeyes outrebounding Michigan State 42-28.
“They killed us on the boards because we had a couple guys who didn’t show up,” Izzo said.
Ohio State (15-1, 2-1) entered the day as one of six unbeaten teams in Division I, getting off to its best start since 2010-11 when it began 24-0.
The Buckeyes almost ended the night still undefeated after a remarkable comeback.
Aaron Craft had a lot to do with it.
“I’m tired of giving him credit, but he’s a warrior and he just wants it so bad,” Izzo said.
The senior guard’s three-point play with 2:02 left pulled the Buckeyes within three points. After Ohio State missed shots, Craft dived on the court to get a loose ball and called time out with 1:01 left.
“That’s what he does,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “That’s how he plays.”
On the ensuing inbounds play, Craft passed the ball off Payne’s backside, got the ball back and made a layup to cut the deficit to one.
“I did that a year ago,” Craft said of the savvy play that surprised Payne. “I saw it was open and we wanted to get a quick score.”
Payne split a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession, allowing Amir Williams’ putback dunk with 19 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Ohio State scored the first points of the extra period, taking its first lead since it was ahead 19-17, but gave up some pivotal 3-pointers.
Kaminski made a season-high third 3-pointer to break a tie with 2:40 left in overtime and Payne connected on a shot beyond the arc on the Spartans’ next possession.
Appling made two free throws with 14.4 seconds left to give Michigan State a three-point lead and Ohio State’s Marc Loving missed an off-balance 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Appling made one of two free throws with 1 second to go.
The Buckeyes had a season-high 21 turnovers, didn’t have a double-digit scorer until there were under than 4 minutes left in regulation and gave up 70-plus points for the first time this season. Sam Thompson finished with 18 points, including six straight late in regulation, and Loving scored 10 points.
“I’m proud we came back, but we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be in this caliber of a game,” Matta said. “You can’t come on the road and have 21 turnovers.”