COLUMBUS, Ohio – The back half of the Big Ten slate has not been particularly kind to either Ohio State or Michigan State, and both still have work to do. The 22nd-ranked Spartans will attempt to earn the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament when they visit the Buckeyes on Sunday. Ohio State dropped its last two games to fall out of position for a first-round bye in the conference tournament and is looking at the No. 5 seed depending on how things shake out in the final weekend.
Michigan State avoided a three-game losing streak with an 86-76 home win over Iowa on Thursday and is enjoying a period of relative health as it draws to the end of the regular season. Keith Appling shook off hip and wrist injuries to reach double figures with 12 points in the win over the Hawkeyes, and Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are both rounding into form following absences earlier in the Big Ten season. The Buckeyes had some serious problems at the offensive end in a loss at Indiana last weekend and need one more win to finish over .500 in conference play.
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ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten): The Spartans got Dawson back in a 53-46 loss to Illinois on Mar. 1 and are 18-2 with their leading rebounder in the lineup. Appling missed three games before playing through his various injuries for four straight but declared himself healthy before the Iowa contest and ended up with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting - his first double-digit scoring performance since the previous meeting with Iowa on Jan. 28. Appling hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime on Jan. 7 and hit 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to seal a 72-68 home victory as Michigan State took the first meeting from the Buckeyes.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (22-8, 9-8): The Buckeyes failed to make a 3-pointer (0-of-11) for the first time since 2004 in the 72-64 loss at Indiana last weekend and made 24 of their 25 field goals inside the paint. "I think we're really lacking in a confidence issue, we're lacking in a toughness issue in terms of playing through situations," coach Thad Matta told the Columbus Dispatch. "Those are things that somehow, someway we've got to get corrected." Ohio State has been held under 65 points in five of its last six games.
1. Buckeyes G Aaron Craft (324) needs one steal to pass Bruce Douglas (Illinois) for first in Big Ten history.
2. Michigan State (.400) and Ohio State (.401) are the top two teams in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense.
3. Spartans G Gary Harris is 16-for-33 from 3-point range in the last four games.