Ohio State/Michigan State Preview: Big Ten Battle

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By Jeff Ghiringhelli

Two of the Big Ten’s best teams and players will clash tomorrow afternoon when Michigan State hosts Ohio State. The matchup everyone will have their eye on is between Player of the Year candidates Kalin Lucas and Evan Turner. Lucas appears to be almost fully recovered from the sprained ankle he suffered at Wisconsin, as he has averaged 18.5 points and five assists in the last two games.
Lucas has also recently become the more vocal leader that head coach Tom Izzo wants to see. Since being asked to leave a practice earlier in the season, Lucas has been getting progressively better at the role. It really shined on the February 6th game at Illinois which Lucas was held out of. During that game, he was very vocal in the team huddles, and even pulled teammates aside for a one-on-one chat.

When Turner was out with a broken back, Ohio State started off conference play 1-3. Since his return, the Buckeyes have won nine out of ten games. Turner is averaging 19.5 points and nine rebounds per game on the year. However, the Buckeyes find themselves in a must-win situation against the Spartans. Ohio State had a chance to tie for the conference lead earlier this week, but they fell at home to red-hot Purdue. They now sit one game behind MSU, and will find themselves in a difficult position if they lose tomorrow.

The Spartans currently lead the Big Ten, holding a half game lead over Purdue. Just about a month ago, it was widely thought that another conference title was heading to East Lansing. Then Lucas went down, and the Spartans lost three games in a row including a home loss to Purdue last week. MSU can ill-afford another home loss to a top opponent, but they must play better than their last game at the Breslin Center.

The Spartans shot just 32 percent in that loss to the Boilermakers, including just 26 percent from beyond the arc. The defense was not much better, allowing Purdue to shoot 57 percent from the field. MSU just looked sluggish for most of the game, which was puzzling to see considering the magnitude of the game. They have since won two in a row, and appear to be hitting stride once again. They must carry the momentum of those games into the start of tomorrow’s contest, and get the crowd involved early.

If the Spartans trip up tomorrow, they will not only be removed from first place for the first time this season, they also face a road game at Purdue. In other words, MSU must protect their home court tomorrow or else they could have a very hard time regaining first place. Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers are two x-factors for the Spartans. The explosive duo has not been very effective in the past few games, and must turn up the intensity and play like they were in January. If the two of them can get more involved tomorrow, the Spartans will be tough to beat.

This is another difficult Big Ten game to predict, but it is hard to imagine the Spartans losing two straight games at the Breslin Center. The Buckeyes have the highest team field goal percentage in the Big Ten, and clearly run a very efficient offense. The Spartans once again have an outstanding rebounding margin, and the Buckeyes will have to hit the glass hard to create second-chance opportunities. This game will be close throughout, but I think Lucas continues to play well, and Summers breaks out of his dry spell. Michigan State wins this one 73-67.

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