EAST LANSING – Michigan State is coming off an impressive 81-72 win over No. 5 Illinois that helped them get within earshot of the NCAA tournament bubble.
Since their last meeting with Ohio State on Jan. 31, the Spartans are much improved. Tom Izzo has found his lineup, a culmination of MSU's best guys, and a revolving door of big men down low.
In that time, Aaron Henry is averaging 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while scoring 47 points in Michigan State's previous two contests.
Rocket Watts, who struggled at point guard early this season, has played 63 minutes against Indiana and Illinois, featuring one turnover.
The Buckeyes won't have starting forward Kyle Young; he suffered a concussion during Sunday's game.
His absence forces Ohio State into a smaller lineup than usual, benefitting the Spartans, allowing them to play Henry at the four and Gabe Brown at the three.
Either MSU is rolling after besting the Illini, or Michigan State won't have the energy to compete following a quick turnaround.
I'm not sure which is the answer, but we'll find out tonight.
It's Game Day
Media Timeout: MSU 11 OSU 9
15:21 left in the first half.
The Spartans look good on both ends of the court. Aaron Henry already has seven points. Julius Marble finally defending without fouling and is doing tremendous work on E.J. Liddell so far.
Media Timeout: OSU 18 MSU 17
11:30 left in the first half.
These two teams are trading blows early; OSU leads by one-point at the second media timeout. Henry came to play and just might drag MSU back into the tournament.
Media Timeout: OSU 24 MSU 22
7:25 left in the first half.
The fouls are piling up for Michigan State as Mady Sissoko and Joshua Langford have two apiece. OSU is a top-10 free throw shooting team in the country and will be in the bonus from here on out.
Media Timeout: OSU 35 MSU 29
3:32 left in the first half.
Langford and Henry both have two fouls; both are also sitting on the bench. Without them, the Spartans are forced to hang tough in the final four minutes unless Izzo puts one back in. It's a critical time for MSU. Four Spartans have at least two fouls.
Media Timeout: OSU 42 MSU 40
15:58 left in the second half.
The Spartans were down five points at halftime after Henry and Langford sat for an extended period due to foul trouble. With them back in the lineup MSU has pulled within two.
Media Timeout: OSU 49 MSU 42
11:28 left in the second half.
The Spartans are running out of steam, trailing by seven points with less than 12 minutes left. Langford is 0-for-5 from the floor, Henry appeared to jam his finger and might be compromised. Watts is also 1-for-10.
Media Timeout: OSU 53 MSU 50
7:49 left in the second half.
Despite the Spartans struggling offensively, they only trail by three points. OSU unable to put Michigan State away, allowing them to hang around.
Media Timeout: OSU 61 MSU 60
3:23 left in the second half.
Michigan State trials, 61-60 with less than four minutes left. At one point, it seemed OSU would run away with it, but credit the Spartans physical and mental toughness.
Final: MSU 71 OSU 67