After a disappointing and potentially bubble-bursting 86-77 loss to No. 21 Maryland in College Park, the Ohio State Buckeyes head to East Lansing to take on Michigan State in their second matchup against the Spartans this season.
Ohio State won the first game against Sparty 72-67 in January, giving the Buckeyes their first Big Ten win of the season after starting out conference play 0-4. Sophomore point guard JaQuan Lyle led the Buckeyes with 22 points on the night as all five of Ohio State’s starters scored in double figures.
After the game, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo was so impressed with Ohio State’s play that he expounded a passionate defense of Thad Matta to questioning Ohio State fans. “If they’re complaining here, they should really be complaining in East Lansing,” he said.
Now, Ohio State hopes to turn their up-and-down season upwards once more following a close loss to Maryland. The matchup was made more complex when both Lyle and Keita Bates-Diop missed the trip to Maryland due to family emergencies (both Lyle’s sister, who experienced complications following childbirth, and Bates-Diop’s brother, who experienced a heart attack while at high school basketball practice, are doing much better).
Senior forward Marc Loving led the Buckeyes with 24 points on the night against Maryland, and while Loving, junior center Trevor Thompson and junior forward Jae’Sean Tate all contributed significantly, it was not enough to overcome the Terps, especially being down Lyle’s presence. The lack of depth was apparent, as Maryland’s bench outscored Ohio State’s by a 33-0 margin. Combined with severe foul trouble, it was difficult for the Buckeyes to remain aggressive throughout the entirety of the game.
C.J. Jackson has started at point guard the last three games, averaging 9.3 points in wins over Michigan and Rutgers and the loss to Maryland. While he hasn’t scored on Lyle’s level (Lyle averages 11.4 points per game), what the Buckeyes truly miss with Lyle’s absence is his ability to assist. Jackson has averaged just two assists per game to Lyle’s five.
The Spartans, meanwhile, are now coming off an 11-point win over Iowa in East Lansing. Carried by their defense, Michigan State is 15-10 overall and sitting at fifth place in the Big Ten as Tom Izzo aims to avoid a series sweep from the Buckeyes for the season.
After a tough loss without key personnel on the court, the Buckeyes will need to refocus their efforts against an equally inconsistent Michigan State squad in a tough environment in East Lansing.
Numbers to know
While Ohio State certainly has had some serious turnover issues over the course of the season, averaging 13 per game, Michigan State is 302nd in the NCAA with 14.8 turnovers committed per outing and a turnover margin of -3.2. What is remarkable, however, is the fact that Michigan State’s assist-to-turnover ratio, as a team, sits at 1.2 on the season, with the Spartans averaging 17.5 assists per game. In fact, junior guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. personally has a 3.1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is good for second in the Big Ten (Lyle’s assist-to-turnover ratio currently sits at 1.9).
Michigan State boasts the second-best three-point field goal percentage in the Big Ten, hitting nearly 39 percent from behind the arc. Leading in that effort is freshman guard Joshua Langford, who is hitting nearly 47 percent from three-point range. Freshman guard Miles Bridges has also made an impact in the category, hitting 40 percent of his attempts. The Buckeyes are mediocre on three-point defense, allowing 34.5 percent of shots from behind the arc while hitting just over 34 percent themselves on offense. Ohio State will need to defend strong outside shooters and keep Michigan State from spreading the floor in order to keep the three-point shot at bay.
Michigan State is one of the best teams in the country in field goal defense, allowing just over 40 percent from the field (31st nationally). Ohio State is no slouch either, allowing 40.9 percent. Still, Michigan State’s extremely physical defense has helped the Spartans to overcome other mental errors on the court, including their significant turnover issues. Especially most recently in the second half against Iowa, Michigan State held Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, to just 2-for-11 from the field and 13 points on the night. Ohio State will need to be aware of Michigan State’s physical brand of defense in order to control the ball and avoid turnovers on offense.
Cast of characters
Maryland did their best to contain the seven-foot center, but that also meant swarming up to three players on him at any given point. Thompson (as well as center Micah Potter) fouled out with more than five minutes remaining in the second half even as the Buckeyes were pulling back against the Terps, and there is no doubt that his presence was missed in those final few minutes. In his last outing against Michigan State, Thompson scored 10 points, pulled down eight rebounds and two blocks, but also recorded four personal fouls. Given Thompson’s physicality--and the way that Maryland used it against him--the Buckeyes will need to spread the ball and the Michigan State defense in order to keep Thompson effective throughout the game.
The junior forward became the 54th Buckeye to score 1000 career points Saturday in his 20-point effort against Maryland. Most of Tate’s scoring came in the second half, as he was just 2-for-8 in the first. He will need to provide a more consistent, 40-minute effort along with Thompson and Loving against the Spartans--a team which allows under 69 points per game. Tate tied Loving with 12 points against Michigan State earlier this season. Tate leads the Buckeyes in scoring on the season, averaging 14.3 points per game while shooting nearly 55 percent from the field to go along with 6.1 rebounds.
The freshman guard scored 24 points against Ohio State in January (the only Michigan State player to hit double figures in the matchup) and leads the team with 16.2 points per game on the season. In the Spartans’ most recent matchup against Iowa, Bridges scored a team-high 16 points, with 14 coming in the first half, and was one of four freshman to score in double figures against the Hawkeyes. He also recorded 11 rebounds and four blocks in the effort--a testament to his skill on both ends of the court. Bridges is one of the best individual players the Buckeyes have faced this season, and is projected as a top-15 NBA Draft pick. Ohio State will need to contain Bridges (and the other freshmen coming off the bench) in their matchup.
The 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward is the de facto big man on a roster which, despite its tall lineup, features no true center. The freshman is second on the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game, though he recorded only nine points against Ohio State in their previous meeting. However, Ward’s most recent performance, a 14-point effort against Iowa, came off the bench in an effort by Izzo to make his freshman forward focus more on the game at hand: “I think it’s different because we’re aware of Nick going MIA, and I think Nick’s still becoming more consistent,” Izzo said. “He’s still a work in progress.” Whether Ward starts or comes off the bench, he has had a hot hand as of late, and the Buckeyes will need to contain the big man as effectively as they did the last time the two teams squared off.
How to watch
Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM