Sunday, April 21, 2024

U ready for OSU

January 19, 2001
Freshman center Zach Randolph struggles for the ball with Wisconsin guard Travon Davis during last Saturday —

Injuries to seniors Andre Hutson and Mike Chappell will force MSU to go deeper into its bench Sunday against Ohio State.

The No. 3 Spartans (14-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) are half a game out of first place in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes (11-5, 2-2) are sixth in the conference.

Head coach Tom Izzo said MSU will use sophomore center Adam Ballinger, redshirt freshman forward Adam Wolfe and redshirt freshman center Jason Andreas more than usual to fill the void.

Ballinger is expected to start, but who starts doesn’t make much difference, Izzo said.

“Not that a starting lineup matters with my squad,” he said. “Three or four minutes in and somebody else is in there anyway.”

With Hutson out with pneumonia and Buckeyes center Ken Johnson leading the nation in blocked shots at four per game, the post play will be key.

Senior guard David Thomas said he expects MSU’s post players to step up, but he added the guards need to help relieve the pressure.

“We have to be more active and hit our shots,” he said. “If we draw and kick our big men will be open underneath.”

In Big Ten play the Spartans are shooting .688 percent from the field. If MSU can maintain that shooting percentage, the Spartans can expect to come out on top.

The key matchup to watch is freshman center Zach Randolph against Johnson. Randolph is averaging 11.3 points per game, but admits he’s never faced a shot blocker like Johnson.

“I’ve never played against him,” he said. “I hear he’s a pretty good shot blocker so it’s going to be interesting.”

Izzo said he expects Randolph to continue to see double teams against the Buckeyes.

He added MSU’s off-the-ball movement and Randolph’s passing made the double team ineffective against Wisconsin and will be important against Ohio State.

“It’s easy to coach, easy to set up, but hard to do,” Izzo said. Izzo said it’s no secret Johnson has the ability to change a game with his defense, but added his offense has improved as well.

Next to guard Brian Brown’s 13.9 points per game, Johnson’s 12.4 is tops on the Buckeyes.

“They’re definitely going to go to Johnson,” Izzo said. “They’ve done a lot with their high-to-low game and they’re really looking for him more than they did last year.”

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