WHEN: Sunday, 4 p.m. ET
WHERE: Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio
|Adreian Payne looks to lead the Spartans|
over rival Ohio State Buckeyes.
On the other hand, Ohio State comes in after dominating Minnesota in a 71-45 win. They have been very inconsistent against top competition this year, and face one of two major tests they have remaining on their schedule this Sunday. The Buckeyes still have a date with top-ranked Indiana on March 5, but first the Buckeyes will look to take down No. 4 Michigan State Spartans. A win could improve their seeding in the NCAA tournament and give them confidence heading into the Big Ten tournament.
The two coaches, Tom Izzo and Thad Matta, had high praises for the programs these two have built, resulting in the Buckeyes and Spartans clashing in Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles two of their previous three meetings.
''Coming in here nine years ago, Michigan State is a program I looked at and said, `Jeez, how do they do it?''' Matta said. ''I have the utmost respect for what they had done. The biggest tell-all is just standing the test of time in college basketball. It's a lot easier said than done.''
The Spartans won their last matchup at home on Jan. 19, 59-56.
''They're a better team I think, in some ways, and they're a different team in other ways,'' Izzo said, speaking of their last matchup. ''They've still got one of the best defensive guards in the country (Aaron Craft) and they still have (Deshaun) Thomas, who is capable of getting 30 any night you play him.''
Player To Watch For Michigan State: Adreian Payne
Payne picked the perfect time to play the best game of his career. In a valiant effort versus the No. 1 team in the country, he dropped 17 points and seven rebounds against a tough Hoosier frontcourt, and his previous performance with a 15-point, 14-rebound effort against Nebraska.
Payne looked poised, throwing a perfect combo of inside and outside. He shot 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, and 6-for-8 from the floor. If Payne can continue this play, the Spartans will be tough to beat down the stretch.
An inside scoring presence would be huge for the Spartans in this game. He had 14 points and five rebounds in the first meeting with Ohio State, and he'll be looking to play as good or better this time.
Player To Watch For Ohio State: Deshaun Thomas
Thomas is one of the top scorers in the country, combining the length to get to the rim and the stroke to shoot from anywhere on the court. In his past five games, Thomas has averaged 20.4 PPG and 5.4 RPG. He lit the Spartans up for 28 points in the first meeting, and could prove to be even tougher at home.
If he can get hot and control Branden Dawson, the Buckeyes will be tough to beat at home on Sunday.
Tom Izzo realizes how much will be on the line Sunday. A No. 1 seed, a potential share of Big Ten championship, and momentum heading into March. His troops will be ready against a very inconsistent Buckeye squad.
57-52, Michigan State.