Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The 2013-14 regular season comes to a close
for Big Ten Conference rivals Michigan State and Ohio State on Sunday
afternoon, as the two teams square off at Value City Arena.
Michigan State comes in as the 22nd-ranked team in the country, the Spartans
sporting an impressive 23-7 overall record and a 12-5 league ledger. The team
held down the No. 1 ranking a couple of months ago, and recently picked up an
86-76 win over a ranked Iowa squad at home on Thursday night. Prior to that,
MSU had suffered setbacks in two straight and had alternated wins and losses
in its previous eight. The Spartans have earned a bye in the first round of
the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.
Ohio State had also been considered one of the top teams in the country
earlier in the campaign, but Big Ten play has really taken a toll on the
Buckeyes, as they enter this finale at 22-8 overall, with all eight setbacks
coming against league foes. OSU limps in having lost two straight, the most
recent of which being a 72-64 decision at Indiana last Sunday, the skid coming
on the heels of a three-game win streak. With a victory here, the Buckeyes
will improve to 17-3 at home this season.
Michigan State claimed a 72-68 win in overtime in the first meeting between
these two earlier this season in East Lansing, upping its advantage in the
all-time series to 62-54.
The Spartans boast three of the top-16 scorers in the Big Ten, including Gary
Harris who is right at the top with his 17.7 ppg. Adreian Payne adds 15.8 ppg
to go with 7.5 rpg, and Keith Appling contributes 13.2 ppg while combining
with Denzel Valentine to dish out 248 assists. As a collective unit, Michigan
State is putting up 76.5 ppg thanks to efficient shooting percentages of .473
overall and .391 from 3-point range. The team's defensive effort yields 65.7
ppg, with foes shooting just 40 percent from the floor while falling into the
red in both rebounding (-4.7) and turnover (-1.2) differential.
Travis Trice made the most of his time coming off the bench, as he drained
three treys and went a perfect 6-of-6 at the foul line to score 17 points in
Michigan State's recent win over Iowa. Payne added 14 points, Valentine had 13
and Harris and Appling 12 apiece for the Spartans, who nailed 10 3-pointers on
the night, shooting better than 58 percent from both the field and beyond the
arc. They also went 20-of-26 at the charity stripe. About the only negative in
the game for MSU was the fact that it committed 16 turnovers, off which the
Hawkeyes scored 25 points.
Even with their well-documented struggles in conference play, the Buckeyes are
one of the top defensive teams in the country, as they permit a mere 58.8 ppg
to rank seventh. Opponents are connecting on only 40.1 percent of their total
shots, with 3-pointers falling at a league-low 27.7 percent clip. When
attacking the backet, it is guys like LaQuinton Ross (14.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and
Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (11.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) who shine the brightest, while Aaron
Craft (9.4 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.5 spg) does his best to contribute in all facets of
the game. Craft, a senior, is OSU's all-time leader in assists and steals, and
he actually owns the Big Ten record for career thefts.
Ross and Smith, Jr. each hit for 19 points, but those efforts went for naught
as Ohio State dropped an eight-point decision at Indiana last weekend. The
Buckeyes missed all 11 of their 3-point attempts in the game, while the
Hoosiers went 7-of-18. OSU dominated the interior, outscoring its hosts in the
paint (48-28), but the IU bench accounted for 19 points, while OSU's logged
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