CHICAGO — After defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Ohio State men’s basketball team is getting set for yet another rematch.
The Buckeyes are set to meet the No. 3 seed Michigan State Spartans Friday night, a team that dispatched OSU, 59-56, on Valentine’s Day.
The matchup has brought out the best in both schools as of late, as Michigan State holds a 5-4 edge over the Buckeyes in the past four years.
Two of those games have come in the Big Ten Tournament, with the teams splitting the pair.
“They have a great team, I feel like we have a great team as well. We have played each other so many times, regular season and (Big Ten) tournament it feels like every year,” OSU senior guard Shannon Scott said of Michigan State. “It always comes down to the wire with them. We just have to be ready for that.”
Thad Matta, who became OSU’s winningest coach with the victory over Minnesota, agreed with Scott, joking that the the Buckeyes and Spartans shouldn’t even play the entire game.
“The battles over the years that we’ve had, honestly tomorrow what we should do is just start with one minute on the clock and save ourselves,” Matta said. “They always seem to come down to the last minute of the game.”
That was the case earlier this season when Spartan junior guard Denzel Valentine buried a fadeaway 3-pointer in the final seconds to give Michigan State the win over OSU.
Scott, who scored a career-high 21 points in the win over the Golden Gophers, said the feeling around the OSU locker room is that the Buckeyes are now a different team than they were when they lost in East Lansing, Mich.
“We are a hungry team. We know they beat us earlier. We know we could have won that game,” Scott said. “Every single guy on my team feels like we can win this game coming up.”
While Scott led the Buckeyes in scoring in the Feb. 14 loss with 15 points, it was his backcourt counterpart who struggled against the Spartans.
Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell scored just 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting that day while the OSU bench accounted for just three points.
That was not the case for the Buckeyes on Thursday night against Minnesota as the they had three players in double figures scoring – Russell and Scott with more than 20 each – and senior forward Sam Thompson adding nine points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Russell said if the Buckeyes can maintain their consistency throughout the team and the tournament, Michigan State will have a hard time disposing of them.
“Good luck with it. We weren’t playing great basketball against them last time,” Russell said. “Them being physical, I couldn’t go where I wanted to go. We are a different basketball team now.”
Whether the Buckeyes are a different team or not, Matta said he will look at the film from the last matchup between the two teams before taking the floor Friday night.
“As crazy as it sounds, I actually look forward to tomorrow night because I know it’s gonna be a heck of a basketball game,” he said.
The Buckeyes and Spartans are set to tip about 25 minutes after the Maryland vs. Indiana matchup, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.