Saturday , Jan , 27 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Buckeyes and Spartans meet in key Big Ten bout

Columbus, OH (Sports Network) – Trying to keep within striking distance of
the red-hot Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten, the fifth-ranked Ohio State
Buckeyes play host to the Michigan State Spartans in league play from Value
City Arena this evening.

The Buckeyes are 5-1 in the Big Ten, following Wednesday’s 59-50 victory
at Northwestern. It was the team’s fourth straight victory and leaves it one
game behind the 6-0 Badgers in the conference standings.

The Spartans are within reach as well, sitting at 4-2 in league play. Tom
Izzo’s squad has also strung together four consecutive wins and enters this
contest off a 70-46 pasting of Minnesota on Wednesday. The Spartans are a
perfect 14-0 at home this season, but have struggled a bit in true road
games, winning just once in four attempts.

The Spartans own a 59-47 edge in the all-time series with Ohio State and have
actually won four straight in Value City Arena.

The Spartans abused the Golden Gophers in the paint, outscoring their foe down
low 32-4. The team shot 50.9 percent from the floor and held Minnesota to a
mere .311 shooting performance. In addition, MSU won the battle on the boards
(38-24) and forced 15 turnovers. Raymar Morgan led the way with 14 points,
followed closely by Drew Neitzel and Goran Suton, who finished with 13 and 10
points, respectively. On the year, Neitzel has clearly asserted himself as the
offensive leader, pacing the team with 18.2 ppg. Most of Neitzel’s damage
comes from long range, where he has connected on 41.1 percent of his attempts,
leading the team with a whopping 62 three-pointers thus far. Morgan is the
only other Spartan with a double-digit average, adding 10.8 ppg. Not a flashy
offensive team by any stretch of the imagination, MSU is averaging just 68.9
ppg. The team has thrived at the defensive end though, yielding a mere 55.8
ppg, while holding foes under 40 percent shooting (.374).

The Buckeyes can win games at either end of the court, showing the ability to
light up a scoreboard when needed (77.6 ppg), while also showing some real
grit at the defensive end (61.3 ppg against). It took a little time, but
freshman phenom Greg Oden is beginning to assert himself as the best big man
in the country. The seven-foot youngster is shooting .658 from the floor and
currently leads the Buckeyes in scoring (15.4 ppg), rebounding (10.1 rpg) and
blocked shots (47). Daequan Cook and Ron Lewis provide perimeter balance with
13.1 and 12.2 ppg, respectively. In the nine-point win over the Wildcats this
week, Oden finished with yet another double-double, posting 17 points and a
season-high 17 rebounds. Forward Ivan Harris also finished with double digits
in terms of scoring, leading the team with 18 points. OSU really beat up
Northwestern on the glass, outrebounding the Wildcats, 39-19.