The Buckeyes (15-1, 2-1 Big Ten) suffered their first loss of the season.
Both of Appling's legs cramped up late in the first half and progressively got worse.
"I was definitely in a lot of pain, but in that situation, I had to suck it up and fight through it," said Appling, who also had seven assists and six rebounds while playing 43 minutes. "It got worse as the game went on, so I just tried to drink a lot of water and Gatorade, and our trainer tried to massage the cramps out of my calves, but that didn't really work. I just had to fight through it."
So did Michigan State senior center Adreian Payne, who scored 18 points in 32 minutes off the bench despite a sprained right foot. Sophomore guard Gary Harris added 13 for the Spartans, who squandered a 17-point lead in the final 7:05 of regulation.
Ohio State forced nine turnovers during the second-half rally, including four by Appling. Buckeyes guard Shannon Scott nearly won the game after making a steal in the closing seconds, but he missed a layup.
"As I told them afterward that, yeah, I'm proud we came back, but we weren't as sharp as we needed to be in this caliber of game at the start," he said. "You can't go on the road and have 21 turnovers, and shockingly, we had shots to win the game. But we're not a good enough team to waste possessions like that."
It was the first meeting between the schools when both were ranked in the top five.
Payne had a pair of put-back dunks, sandwiched by a transition pull-up jumper from Harris, to give the Spartans a 48-34 lead. Appling finished it off with a fast-break layup and later gave his team its biggest lead, 55-38, with a layup.
"He's a special player," Matta said of Appling. "Four years in their program, he's won a ton of basketball games. He's difficult to guard, and he hit some big free throws and some big shots down the stretch."
"As good as they were, we were just out of gas," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I'm a big-picture guy, and you shouldn't have those kinds of letdowns."
NOTES: Spartans backup PG Travis Trice missed the game because of an illness. ... Michigan State won its 12th consecutive conference home opener. ... The Spartans won 27 of their past 40 meetings with Ohio State. ... Buckeyes G Lenzelle Smith Jr. started his 92nd consecutive game. ... Ohio State PG Aaron Craft has 287 career steals, third in Big Ten history behind Illinois' Bruce Douglas, who had 324 from 1983-86, and Michigan's Gary Grant, who swiped 300 from 1985-89. ... The Spartans began the night leading the nation with an average of 18.9 assists, while their previous three opponents recorded fewer than 10 assists. ... Michigan State honored its Rose Bowl champion football team at halftime. ... Ohio State started five seasons with at least 15 consecutive victories, led by the 1961 team's 27-game streak.