It was a different time when these teams met at the beginning of January. Ohio State was considered one of the better teams in the Big Ten and had a 12-1 overall record and this result did nothing to change that. While Michigan State got the win in Columbus, it was back-and-forth the majority of the way until the Spartans pulled away late in an 86-77 win.
Neither team played great defense in that Game with Cassius Winston and Nick Ward combining for 46 points, while Kaleb Wesson went for 25 points, one of his better performances of the season. since that Game, Wesson has been a little all over the place and often unreliable for the Bucks. He’ll again be the biggest factor for his team because not only does he have to score, but he has to find a way to stop Ward on the other end. Ward scored 11 of his 21 points from the free-throw line in that first Game and that’s what OSU can’t do again if it wants to have a chance. The problem is that Ohio State has had a fouling issue all season and is one of the worst in the Big Ten in allowing free throws. The other thing is that OSU only turned it over five times in that first Game and still lost. That’s relevant because the Bucks have turned it over a ton in almost every other Conference Game, losing the ball on more than 21 percent of possessions.
The best chance the Buckeyes have is if Michigan State reverts back to its levels from a week ago when it turned it over 25 times against Illinois and 8-for-22 from the free-throw line against Indiana. Otherwise, there aren’t many ways for OSU to steal a road win. Ward should again have success against Wesson or whoever the Buckeyes throw at him. And while CJ Jackson is a decent defender, he didn’t show much in that first Game against Winston. If those two guys are cooking again, there’s still the chance that someone like Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins or Xavier Tillman has a big Game, which is always a possibility.
For Michigan State to cover, it will have to play better defense than it did in the first meeting. Of course, Kaleb Wesson (14.7 ppg) probably won’t Score25 points again, but that’s why other players have to step up whether it’s Jackson, Andre Wesson or LUther Muhammad. Muhammad has had some nice performances, but he’s also extremely inconsistent, from scoring 24 points against Nebraska to just three against Michigan the following Game. The issue is that MSU plays some of the best perimeter defense in the Conference between McQuaid and Aaron Henry, as those two often lock down the opposing team’s best players.
There’s no question Ohio State can stick around in this Game, but it will require a slower-paced Game, which is how it beat teams like Rutgers and Indiana. If the Buckeyes can slow things down and not let Winston run things too easily, they should be in business. The question is where Ohio State’s scoring will come from and with that unknown, it’ll be hard to take the road team even with a fairly high spread.
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