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10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET6:00 PM GMT2:00 PM 北京时间11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST, Feb 17, 2019
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No. 11 Michigan State finds stride as Ohio State visits

(AP Photo/Andy Manis)

If you think you have the Big Ten all figured out, give it a week.

No. 11 Michigan State and Ohio State -- teams that meet Sunday in East Lansing, Mich. -- are perfect examples of why it's wise to not rush to judgment on any team in the conference.

One week ago, the Spartans had lost three straight -- including one at home to an Indiana team that had lost seven in a row, followed by a loss at Illinois. Ohio State, on the other hand was rolling, its five-game skid a distant memory as the Buckeyes were building their NCAA Tournament resume with three straight victories and four wins in five games.

Things have changed, dramatically, since then.

Michigan State responded by blowing out Minnesota at home and then hitting the road to knock off No. 20 Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Ohio State's home loss to Illinois highlighted the Buckeyes' offensive woes and placed them firmly on the bubble.

For Michigan State (20-5, 11-3 Big Ten), it was validation that its problems will likely be looked at as simply a lull in a long season. The skid began on the road against a surging Purdue team in a game that went down to the wire.

"I forgot everything that happened yesterday, and I'm just worried about today," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

"I thought we played pretty well at Purdue for most of that game. That is a good team we lost to. The next two games I think taught us (that we'll struggle) if we're not ready to play and we're not ready to do the things we do to be successful, which is defend, rebound and run, make free throws, all the little things you talk about.

"Sometimes I hope it isn't to the point where we need our eyes opened, but I think for some reason we had our eyes opened. So it was frustrating when it happened, but we used it as a learning thing and I think our team has learned a lot."

The biggest change has been the play of junior big man Nick Ward. After getting pulled from the starting lineup at Illinois, he's been a force in the last two victories, scoring 22 against Minnesota then helping contain Ethan Happ (20 points but six turnovers) at Wisconsin.

"It's consistently doing what he does well, and what he does well he's really, really good at," Izzo said.

While Michigan State is feeling good, Ohio State (16-8, 6-7) is scrambling. Firmly on the tournament bubble, the Buckeyes face a team that is currently ranked in five of their final seven regular-season games.

That is not exactly the best position to be in when needing every victory possible, but the Buckeyes feel it's better than having no shot at all.

"A lot of teams would like to be in the bubble picture, including the one we played tonight," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said after the Illinois loss. "So I think for us the focus is not on (the) bubble or anything like that; our focus is on getting better and improving and growing. That's our focus as coaches."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 17, 2019

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