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Ohio State rallies past Michigan State

Mar 9, 2008 - 7:01 PM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Jamar Butler and Othello Hunter helped enhance Ohio State's NCAA Tournament resume.

Butler scored 20 points and Hunter threw down two emphatic dunks down the stretch as the Buckeyes rallied for a 63-54 victory over No. 18 Michigan State in a Big Ten matchup Sunday.

With their tournament hopes in question, the Buckeyes (19-12, 10-8 Big Ten) may have solidified their spot following their second win over a ranked team in five days. They were coming off an 80-77 overtime triumph against 15th-ranked Purdue on Tuesday.

"They've had to do what they've needed to do," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "To beat two ranked teams, these guys are playing very good basketball. I hope that the way we've finished the regular season is taken into consideration."

Ohio State has the support of Michigan State Tom Izzo regarding an NCAA Tournament berth.

"Do I think Ohio State should be in? Hands down, yes," Izzo said. "They beat two ranked teams down the stretch and played a really tough non-conference schedule. I would have them in, but it's not up to me."

Butler, who was playing his final home game, had a lot to do with the Buckeyes picking up the crucial win. The senior scored 13 points in the second half, including two free throws with 4:41 remaining which gave the Buckeyes their first lead at 53-52.

"We needed this win. We stepped up and played well," Butler said. "The second half went great. We made some adjustments and made some buckets."

Hunter converted dunks with 3:35 left and another with 58 seconds to go, helping the Buckeyes keep the lead. His second dunk provided a 59-54 cushion.

"Coach just kept telling me to go to the boards," Hunter said. "I was doing that all game, but in the second half things started to open up for me."

Hunter finished with 13 points, David Lighty 12 and freshman Kosta Koufos 11 for the Buckeyes, who shot 50 percent (23-of-46) and won despite getting outrebounded, 33-20.

Raymar Morgan scored 19 points to lead Michigan State (24-7, 12-6), which squandered a double-digit lead in the second half and fell apart in the waning moments. The Spartans were held without a basket for the final 5:46.

"I'm terribly disappointed with how we played at the end of the game," Izzo said. "We played well then threw it all away at the end."

No other players scored in double figures for the Spartans, who will be the fourth seed in the conference tournament which starts Thursday.

It looked like the Spartans were on their way to a third straight win after Goran Suton's layup with just over 12 minutes provided a 45-35 lead.

Matta then made a move to speed up the game, a strategy that proved effective as Ohio State used a 12-3 burst in under five minutes to pull within 48-47 with 7:29 to go. Lighty's 3-pointer capped the burst.

"We talked about having more activity and awareness," Matta said. "Guys were moving and talking better and were more aware of where the shooter was. It was a completely different out there during the last 10 minutes. They played harder and smarter."

Morgan, who was the Spartans' best player, converted a follow shot and made a tough floater in the lane, rebuilding the lead to 52-48 with 5:46 left. But the Spartans failed to hit another basket, getting only two free throws from Kalin Lucas the rest of the way.

Chris Allen made two 3-pointers and the Spartans hit four shots from the arc in the first 10 minutes in building a double-digit lead. They settled for a 31-23 advantage at the break.