Preview: Michigan State at Ohio State
Perhaps no team will enter postseason play more prepared for the rigors of March than No. 5 Michigan State. The Spartans will play their second top-25 opponent in five days on Sunday when they travel to No. 18 Ohio State. Michigan State, which pounded No. 7 Michigan on Feb. 12, is in the midst of a five-game stretch where it will play the other four ranked teams in the Big Ten.
The Spartans fell out of first place with Tuesday's home loss to top-ranked Indiana - snapping a five-game winning streak - and must face the Big Ten's two stingiest scoring defenses (Ohio State and No. 17 Wisconsin) in succession. The Buckeyes have lost three of five, but are coming off a 70-44 thumping of Minnesota on Wednesday. Ohio State is 1-7 against Top-25 competition this season, including a 59-56 loss at Michigan State on Jan. 19.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten): Gary Harris (13.2 points) is on his way to turning in one of the best rookie campaigns in school history. His freshman scoring average ranks third in school history behind Earvin Johnson (17.0) and Shawn Respert (15.8). Over the last 11 games, Adreian Payne's ability to hit 3-pointers has gone from a novelty act to a regular weapon in his arsenal. The 6-10 junior, who also ranks seventh in the Big Ten in rebounding (7.0) and eighth in blocks (1.3), is 10-of-17 from beyond the arc. Payne hit three 3-pointers in a game Tuesday for the second time this season.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (19-7, 9-5): Deshaun Thomas leads the conference in scoring (20.1) and free-throw percentage (84 percent). With three more rebounds, the sophomore will become the 25th Buckeye - and sixth since coach Thad Matta took over in 2004-05 - to score at least 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in his career. Ohio State set a season mark by holding the Golden Gophers to 29.2 percent from the floor, ending a four-game stretch where it allowed opponents to shoot a combined 49.8 percent. Over the Buckeyes' first 21 games, opponents connected on 37.8 percent of their field goal attempts.
1. Each of the last three meetings in this series has been decided by four points or fewer.
2. Ohio State needs one Big Ten victory to notch its school-record eighth straight season of at least 10 wins in conference play.
3. Michigan State enjoyed a 34-14 advantage in points in the paint in the first meeting and has scored 49 percent of its points this season in the lane.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 60, Ohio State 58
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