Inside Ohio State's locker room following its 79-73 win over Minnesota on Thursday night in the second round of the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes' next game didn't really need to be brought up. The players kind of did that all on their own.
|Michigan State (21-10, 12-6)||United Center||9 p.m.||BTN|
"We feel like we owe them one," freshman forward Jae'Sean Tate said.
Tate, obviously, was referring to Ohio State's matchup 9 p.m. Friday with Michigan State, a team which knocked off the Buckeyes in their only game this season, 59-56, back on Feb. 14 thanks to a game-winning 3-pointer by Denzel Valentine with just over three seconds remaining.
Ohio State gets another crack at the Spartans tonight.
Michigan State enters the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals having won two-straight games to close out the regular-season. Tonight's matchup with the Buckeyes will be the Spartans' first game in Chicago.
In that stretch, Michigan State edged Purdue, then went on the road without Branden Dawson and beat Indiana to close out its regular season.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said recently he expects to have Dawson back for the Big Ten tournament. It's a big lift, too. The senior forward averages 11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for the Spartans and was on the Big Ten's all-defensive team.
Senior guard Travis Trice has also been huge for Michigan State over the last two games, as he scored 27 in the win over the Boilermakers and dropped 21 points against Indiana.
In last night's win over the Gophers, once Ohio State figured out it couldn't be stopped when it attacked the basket, things went much better for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State was just 1 for 12 from behind the 3-point line in the first half of last night's game, compared to 13 for 19 on two-point attempts. In the second half, the Buckeyes shot just seven 3s and made four of them.
“We definitely wanted to stop settling, we shot a lot of quick 3s (in the first half)," senior forward Sam Thompson said. "We just wanted to play a little bit harder, a little bit tougher. Eliminate those transition buckets, eliminate the soft turnovers and stop giving them game away.”
D'Angelo Russell led the way, again, for Ohio State as the freshman guard poured in a game-high 23 points including a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 41 seconds left that really sealed the deal for the Buckeyes. Additionally, Shannon Scott scored a career-high 21 points to go along with five rebounds and six assists and Marc Loving showed signs of life for the first time since his return from a three-game suspension with 12 points.
“Having a lot of options on offense is key," Loving said. "You can’t just key on one guy, but having all those options it opens up the floor for everyone and creates options at every position.”
How It'll Play Out
The first matchup between the Buckeyes and Spartans was a classic battle between Izzo and Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. In Matta's 11 seasons at the helm of the Buckeyes, he's gone 11-11 against Izzo and Michigan State. Ohio State has outscored the Spartans in those 22 games by a whopping one point.
This game likely won't be any different than the others. The Buckeyes played a pretty solid game the first time in East Lansing sans going scoreless in the final four minutes of the first half which led to a nine-point halftime deficit.
The Spartans were able to limit Russell to just 10 points and he only scored one basket after the 10:48 mark of the first half. Ohio State will obviously need more production out of its superstar in this game if it wants to advance to the semifinals and take on the winner of Indiana and Maryland.
Russell, as per usual, seems up to the task of taking on Michigan State again, though.
“I give a lot of credit to them. When they beat us, they beat us on a last-second shot at home," he said. "I feel like we’ll have a better advantage playing in front of not a hometown crowd so I hope we can get a win.”