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Men’s basketball: No. 8 Ohio State looks to bounce back against rival No. 22 Michigan

Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann talks to freshman Musa Jallow (left) on the sidelines during action against Penn State on Feb. 15, 2018, at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. The Buckeyes lost, 79-56. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

The No. 8 Ohio State men’s basketball team is coming off its second-largest defeat of the season, and its second in-conference loss at the hands of Penn State Thursday.

The 23-point defeat to the Nittany Lions might be fresh in their minds, but the Buckeyes (22-6, 13-2 Big Ten) must move forward into another Big Ten showdown, this time in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ohio State is heading to the Crisler Center to face off against No. 22 Michigan (21-7, 10-5 Big Ten) at 1 p.m. Sunday, with Michigan State and Purdue breathing down the Buckeyes’ necks in the battle for first place in the Big Ten.

Projected Starters

Michigan

G – Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – Senior, 6-foot-4, 190 lbs, 11.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.2 apg

G – Charles Matthews – Junior, 6-foot-6, 200 lbs, 13.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.7 apg

F – Moritz Wagner – Junior, 6-foot-11, 245 lbs, 14.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.7 apg

G/F – Duncan Robinson – Fifth-year, 6-foot-8, 215 lbs, 9.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.3 apg

G – Zavier Simpson – Sophomore, 6-foot-0, 185 lbs, 6.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.7 apg

Ohio State

F – Jae’Sean Tate – Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs, 12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.9 apg

F – Keita Bates-Diop – Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs, 19.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 apg

F – Kaleb Wesson – Freshman, 6-foot-9, 270 lbs, 11.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg

G – C.J. Jackson – Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs, 12.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg

F – Andre Wesson – Sophomore, 6-foot-6, 220 lbs, 2.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.0 apg

Scouting Michigan

The Wolverines hold a 14-1 record at home, and have won their last five games at the Crisler Center. Their only loss at home came in a one-point defeat to then-No.5 Purdue on Jan. 9.

Michigan’s 9.32 turnovers per game is the second-lowest in the nation. It is led by Abdur-Rahkman, whose 6.00 assist-to-turnover ratio is No. 1 in the NCAA.

The 6-foot-11 Wagner, the team’s scoring leader at 14.6 per game, is shooting 53.3 percent from the field and at 39.8 percent from behind the arc. Wagner’s 43 3-pointers is the most in the NCAA by any player 6-foot-11 or taller.

The Wolverines have beat a highly ranked opponent before, topping then-No.4 Michigan State, 82-72, on Jan. 13 to hand the Spartans their only home less thus far.

The Buckeyes took care of business the last time they faced Michigan, defeating the Wolverines 71-62 in the Schottenstein Center Dec. 4 on the back of a 17-3 run to start the second half. They were down by as much as 20 earlier in the game.

For Ohio State, the focus must be on finding scoring against Michigan’s stifling defense, which ranks No. 10 in points allowed at 63.5 per game. Bates-Diop and Jackson led the Buckeye offense in the previous matchup against the Wolverines, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively.

But against Penn State Thursday, the entire team struggled to generate offense, with Bates-Diop and Jackson finishing with 10 and 13, respectively. They were the only players in double figures against the Nittany Lions.

The Buckeyes are coming off their most embarrassing defeat of the season, in which they recorded their lowest point total while shooting only 38.9 percent from the field. However, Ohio State can quickly regain lost momentum in its quest to win the Big Ten with a victory against their bitter in-conference rival Sunday.

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