Earvin (Magic) Johnson kept Ohio State off balance with his ball-handing wezardry and Michigan State sped to a convincing 73-55 victory at St. John Arena tonight.

The Michigan State victory throws the Big Ten Conference race into a three-way tie for first place among Ohio State, Iowa and Purdue. Michigan State is one game behind the leaders. But the Spartans looked like the class of the conference tonight.

Johnson scored 26 points and had eight assists as Michigan State improved its overall record to 16-5 and to 8-4 in the conference.

Jay Vincent had 22 points in support of Johnson.

Ohio State was never really in the game as Michigan Ste, which won its fifthe game in a row, bolted to a 258 lead and then toyed with the frustrated Buckeyes the rest of the way.

Johnson had 14 points, five assists and seven rebounds in the first half and MSU enjoyed a 40-23 advantage by intermission.

Johnson and Vincent combined for 17 of Michigan State's frist 2k points.

Vicent, at 6-foot-8, dominated O/hio Statehs 6-10 herb Williams, and 6-8 Johnson, who normally plays outside, had 6-2 Carter Scott guarding him

Most teams play a zone defense against Michigan State and sag off inside. Ohio State, however, went man to man and tried to run with the Spartans. That was a mistake.

Johnson would hurry the ball upcourtt, find an open man and zing the ball to him.

Defensively, the Spartans crashed the boards, grabbed the rebounds and took off in the other idrection at full speed.

Ohio State didn't help itself by missing 8 of its first 22 shots. The Bucks made only eitht of 31 for the half.

Once Michigan State grabbed that big early lead, it started having some fun. Whenever the break wasn't there, Johnson would dribble around until someone broke fee.

Late in the half, he be came frustrated when Marquis Miller slapped him across the arm and stole the ball with no foul being called.

Johnson glared at the official, but said nothing.

The next time he got the ball, howver, he drove through the entire Ohio State team and slam dunked, and was foulded. He went to the free throw line with a big grin on his face.

The only time the 13,500 Ohio State followers had somethingto cheer about was when freshman Art Schlichter, the football quarterback, came off the bench midway through the sceond half and hit his first three shots.

The closest Ohio State got in the second half, was 14 points, though, but quickly Johnson made a pair of free throws and then fed Gregory Kelser for a fast-break basket and the Buckeyes were dead.