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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Almost a week after enjoying its first win over a ranked opponent, the No. 11 Ohio State men's basketball team will return to the court on Saturday, when it travels to East Lansing, Mi. for a matchup with No. 18 Michigan State. Before hitting the road, Thad Matta and members of his team met with the media to preview the Buckeyes' upcoming battle with the Spartans.
In Michigan State, OSU will be facing a team much like itself, that has spent the better part of the past half decade at the top of the Big Ten standings. You'd have to go back to the 2007-08 season to find a time that neither the Buckeyes or Spartans earned a share of the Big Ten championship, and Matta doesn't see the Spartans' success changing anytime soon.
"They've done a tremendous job there and they've stood the test of time. They play a certain way. Now, they'll have certain alterations to what they do tomorrow, they always do that for whoever they play," Matta said. "You've got a team that is solid, they've got guys that can shoot, they've got guys that can rebound, they've got a strong low post game."
With a roster consisting of versatile players such as Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, Michigan State certainly possesses the ability to throw multiple defensive looks at OSU's top scorer, Deshaun Thomas. That doesn't bother the 6-foot-7 preseason All-American, who has plenty of confidence in himself to overcome any defensive trap.
"I'm a mismatch nightmare out there," Thomas said. "They go small and I can post them up or if they're big, go around them or a pick and pop. It's sort of a challenge. They just try to do as much as they can to put different bodies on me."
Big Ten battle
Having met three times last season- including in the Big Ten Tournament title game- the Buckeyes and Spartans combined for 101 fouls against one another in those matchups. OSU forward Evan Ravenel doesn't expect tomorrow to be any different, as that's what he's come to expect when facing a Tom Izzo coached team.
"The way that Coach Izzo gets his guys playing physical, lockdown defense, it's just the way we do. We play physical, as well as the rest of the league," Ravenel said. "I think Michigan State is probably one of the most physical teams you'll ever get to play against in college basketball. And that's a credit to their coaching staff."
In addition to the MSU players and coaching staff, the Buckeyes will also face the challenge of playing on the Spartans' homecourt inside of the Breslin Center. MSU is undefeated at home on the season, and OSU won't have the benefit of playing there with the Spartan students on spring break, as they did last season.
"They haven't lost there this year. I'd say it's still right there in terms of toughest venues to play in," Matta said. "It's a great college environment."
Back on track
It was almost two weeks ago at this season seemed to carry a sense of doom and gloom for the Buckeyes, who suffered a 74-55 loss at the hands of Illinois on Jan. 5. OSU, however, bounced back with two quality wins a week ago, including a win at Purdue, and a 56-53 win over then second-ranked Michigan on Sunday.
"They've been very receptive to what we're trying to do. It's hard to feel good when you're playing in the Big Ten, just because you know everything that lies ahead," Matta said. "You go back to the Illinois game, I like the way our team has responded since then, but hopefully they're intelligent enough or intuitive to know that has to kind of where you are at all times."
The Buckeyes' lone senior, Ravenel likes his team's current mindset, and feels as though he and his teammates are maturing at the midpoint of the season.
"We all people, so moods are going to change. People are going to be different from day-to-day. Hopefully, they don't change drastically," Ravenel said. "We do a pretty good job of maintaining the positive moods and changing the negative ones."
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