COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — – For a change, Michigan State and Ohio State aren’t playing for a trophy.
After contesting Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles in two of their last three meetings, there’ll be no hardware up for grabs when the fourth-ranked Spartans square off with the No. 18 Buckeyes on Sunday.
That does not mean there is nothing on the line.
”It’s like there’s always a trophy on the line every time you play one of the top-tier teams in this conference,” Ohio State guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said. ”It’s clutch time now. It’s gut-check (time) now. Now, toward the end of the season, the good teams step up and make big plays and win games. That’s what this game is going to be about.”
Coach Tom Izzo’s team (22-5, 11-3) needs a victory to remain within reach of No. 1-ranked Big Ten leader Indiana (24-3, 12-2).
The Buckeyes (19-7, 9-5) are trying to maintain their two-game grip on fifth place and cement a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament. They can also stretch coach Thad Matta’s string of 20-win seasons to a perfect 13 for 13.
A loss for either creates headaches down the road.
No matter what happens, there’s mutual respect. The two programs have fought on equal terms for almost a decade.
Continue Reading: Michigan St.-Ohio St. Preview (The Associated Press)