Spartans battle Buckeyes in pivotal Big Ten brawl

11:00 AM, Feb 11, 2012   |    comments
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COLUMBUS -- As if they could squeeze any more drama out of this evening's Big Ten Conference showdown with the 11th-ranked Michigan State Spartans, the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will be seeking their 40th straight home win as they hope to gain some additional breathing room in the race for the conference crown.

Michigan State has come roaring back from a pair of season-opening losses to North Carolina and Duke to win 19 of its last 22 games, and the Spartans currently sit just a game back of Ohio State in the Big Ten standings with an 8-3 league ledger.

MSU has won its last two games, the most recent of which being a 77-57 shellacking of Penn State at home on Wednesday night. Coach Tom Izzo's club is a perfect 15-0 at home, but just 4-3 in true road bouts, and 4-5 away from East Lansing all told when you factor in the two neutral-site setbacks to kick off the campaign.

Ohio State is an even more impressive 21-3 this year, with nine of its first 11 Big Ten bouts winding up in the win column. The Buckeyes are riding a six- game win streak, with the latest victory coming in an 87-84 nail-biter versus visiting Purdue this past Tuesday.

That win was OSU's 39th straight at home, the streak beginning with a 66-55 triumph over Michigan on February 27, 2010. The school record for longest home win streak is 50 games set between 1960-64.

Michigan State owns a 63-53 lead in the all-time series with Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have won the last three meetings, with the last being a 71-61 decision in Columbus on February 15, 2011.

Draymond Green logged a monster double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds in leading Michigan State to its recent 20-point win over Penn State. Green, who also added five assists to his impressive stat line, was joined in double figures in the scoring column by Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne with 12 points apiece, and by Keith Appling who tallied 10 points to go with his game- high seven assists.

As a team, the Spartans shot a pedestrian 43.4 percent from the field, but held the Nittany Lions to 38.5 percent, which included a dreadful 20.8 percent showing in the first half. As it has pretty much all season long, MSU easily won the battle on the boards (44-25), and outscored PSU both at the foul line (23-11) and in second-chance points (18-1).

Green continues to play like a man possessed for the Spartans, as he is averaging a double-double consisting of 15.2 points and 10.6 caroms per contest, while also leading the team in steals (35) and tying for the club-lead with Dawson in blocks (24). Appling (11.8 ppg) is the only other double-digit scorer at the moment, but the unit has six guys in all that average at least 7.0 ppg. Michigan State owns significant margins in both scoring (+14.8) and rebounding (+10.8), but is dead even in turnover differential.

The Buckeyes and Boilermakers went toe-to-toe in Columbus earlier this week, and in the end the former prevailed to keep their lengthy home win streak in tact. William Buford scored a career-high 29 points, 21 of which came in the second half, while Jared Sullinger poured in 18 and Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft both chipped in 13 apiece for Ohio State, which made good on 52.0 percent of its total shots, nine of which were from three-point range, while claiming a 26-17 edge in points from the charity stripe.

Purdue shot an equally efficient 51.9 percent from the field and both teams took extremely good care of the basketball, combining for a mere 11 turnovers. OSU won the rebounding battle, 32-23. Like Green for MSU, Sullinger (17.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg) excels in both scoring points and coming up with loose balls, while strong support comes from both Buford (15.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Thomas (14.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

For the season, Ohio State is outscoring the opposition by a staggering 20.3 ppg, outworking them on the glass by 7.5 rpg, and taking advantage in the giveaway/takeaway game by 5.5 tpg. Additionally, the Buckeyes are shooting a stellar 49.1 percent from the floor, while holding foes to a mere 39.7 percent.

 

The Sports Network

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