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Men’s Basketball: Ohio State returns from worst loss of season to face No. 11 Michigan State

Ohio State senior guard C.J. Jackson attempts to drive to the basket against Illinois on Thursday at the Schottenstein Center. Photo: Cori Wade | For The Lantern

A lot has changed since the last time Ohio State took on Michigan State.

The Buckeyes were 12-1, and the No. 14 team in the country. After the 86-77 loss to the Spartans on Jan. 5, there was a lot of optimism that this team, like junior forward Andre Wesson said after that game, could stick with the likes of a team like Michigan State.

Now, as Ohio State prepares for its second matchup against Michigan State, this time in East Lansing, Michigan, things have changed.

On Jan. 5, the Spartans were ranked No. 4 on KenPom, Ohio State was No. 22. Michigan State comes into the matchup on Sunday still at No. 4, while the Buckeyes have dropped to No. 37.

Ohio State had won 12 of its first 13 games. It has now lost six of its past 10.

The Spartans are tied for No. 1 in the Big Ten.

It will take a turnaround in East Lansing for the Buckeyes to pull off a similar miracle to a season ago, when they took down the No. 1 Spartans 80-64 in Columbus.

Projected Starters

Ohio State (16-8, 6-7 Big Ten)

G — C.J. Jackson — Senior, 13.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg

G — Luther Muhammad — Freshman, 9.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg

G — Musa Jallow — Sophomore, 2.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.3 apg

F — Andre Wesson — Junior, 9.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.5 apg

F — Kaleb Wesson — Sophomore, 14.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg

No. 11 Michigan State (20-5 ,11-3 Big Ten)

G — Cassius Winston — Junior, 18.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 7.4 apg

G — Matt McQuaid — Senior, 8.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.3 apg

F — Aaron Henry — Freshman, 5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.4 apg

F — Kenny Goins — Redshirt senior, 7.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.3 apg

F — Nick Ward — Junior, 15.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.9 apg

Ohio State is not the only team in the matchup to struggle against Illinois.

On Feb. 5, Michigan State went down 79-74 to Illinois, the final defeat of a three-game losing streak for the Spartans. Since then, Michigan State has a 24-point win against Minnesota and a 67-59 road victory against No. 20 Wisconsin.

Junior guard Cassius Winston was the key to the Spartans’ road victory against Ohio State a month ago, and continues to be their major scorer.

Winston is averaging 18.8 points per game, No. 4 in the Big Ten, on 47.7 shooting, shooting 45.1 percent from 3. But the major difference comes from his playmaking, where he averages 7.4 assists per game, best in the conference and No. 4 in the NCAA.

In the Big Ten, Michigan State ranks No. 2 in scoring, averaging 81.3 points per game, No. 1 in field goal percentage at 49.3 percent and No. 2 in shooting from deep, hitting on 38.6 percent of attempts from 3.

Defensively, the Spartans don’t take much of a step back. They are holding teams to 37.3 percent shooting from the field, best in the Big Ten.

Michigan State’s 49.3 shooting percentage is No. 7 in the NCAA, and its 37.3 opponent shooting percentage is No. 3.

The biggest advantage the Spartans may hold over Ohio State is on the glass. Michigan State earns the most rebounds per game in the Big Ten, and has the No. 5 rebound margin in the NCAA with a plus-9.2 advantage on the boards per game.

Ohio State is third-worst in the conference with 32.3 rebounds per game.

If there is a weakness to be found on the Spartans, it is with forcing turnovers. Michigan State forces 10.6 turnovers per game, second fewest in the Big Ten.

In Ohio State’s past game against Illinois, the No. 1 team at forcing turnovers in the conference, the Buckeyes committed 18 turnovers, which the Fighting Illini turned into 14 points on the other end.

Ohio State needs momentum. A season ago, a win against the top-ranked Spartans did exactly that. The Buckeyes won their next five games and nine of their next 10.

After facing its worst loss of the season, a momentum shifter may have to come sooner rather than later to keep Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

Ohio State travels to East Lansing to take on No. 11 Michigan State at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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