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No. 16 Michigan State gets a piece of B1G title with win over No. 19 Ohio State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Cassius Winston scored 27 points and No. 16 Michigan State beat No. 19 Ohio State 80-69 on Sunday to win a third straight Big Ten championship.

The Spartans (22-9, 14-6 Big Ten) shared the conference title with No. 9 Maryland and No. 24 Wisconsin and they will be the second-seeded team at the Big Ten Tournament behind the Badgers.

The Buckeyes (21-10, 11-9) had won four straight and six of their previous seven games.

Ohio State’s leading scorer, Kaleb Wesson, was held to eight points on 1-of-8 shooting after entering the day averaging 14-plus points per game.

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Michigan State was in control of much of the evening and pulled away with a 16-4 run late in the game. The Spartans were ahead 38-32 at halftime.

Rocket Watts scored 19 points, Xavier Tillman had 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals while Aaron Henry added 12 points for the Spartans.

Duane Washington had 16 points, CJ Walker scored 14, E.J. Liddell had 12 and Luther Muhammad added 10 points for the Buckeyes.

TIED AT THE TOP

Michigan State had to win to move into a three-way tie for the championship. The Badgers clinched a share of the Big Ten title with a victory Saturday at Indiana and will be the top-seeded team at the Big Ten Tournament. The Terrapins beat No. 25 Michigan earlier on Sunday to also earn a share of the championship and will be the third-seeded team in Indianapolis.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: The Buckeyes should get a boost in the postseason with the expected return of Kyle Young, who missed his fourth straight game with a high ankle sprain. The junior forward, who has a protective boot on his right foot, averages seven-plus points and nearly six rebounds per game.

Michigan State: The Spartans are playing their best late in the season as they usually have done in Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo’s 25 seasons. They started the season ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history and seem to have some momentum going into the postseason.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The surging Spartans will likely move up in the poll on Monday with their fifth straight win and the Buckeyes will probably hold onto a spot toward the bottom of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: Goes to the conference tournament, trying to improve its seeding for the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State: Shoots to repeat as Big Ten Tournament champion.

Thursday’s Things to Know: Illinois’ B1G title hopes hurt, San Diego State survives scare and Tulsa wins without playing

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Even with conference tournament season upon us, some of the most interesting things of the day happened off the court. Kansas responded to the NCAA’s notice of allegations. John Beilein hung out at the Crisler Center. As for actual basketball Thursday, here’s what you need to know:

Illinois’ B1G title hopes fade

It’s been a really solid, resurgent season for Illinois. A needed one given the two sub-.500 years to start Brad Underwood’s tenure in Champaign.

It won’t likely end with a Big Ten title, though.

Illinois’ hopes of claiming a piece of the regular-season B1G championship took a critical hit with a 71-63 loss to Ohio State in Columbus. The Illini are now a game back of Michigan State, Maryland and Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings and would need all three – none of whom play each other – to lose in their B1G finales this weekend and then the Illini would need to beat Iowa as well.

So, probably not happening. But with the NCAA tournament looming ahead, Illinois has a welcome consolation prize in its future.

Illinois led by as many as 11 in the first half, but saw that lead slip away with the Buckeyes taking an 11-point advantage themselves after halftime. Ayo Dosunmu was electric for the Illini, scoring 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting to go along with five boards and five assists, but the rest of the roster didn’t provide much in the way of offensive support. Andres Feliz was the only other Illini to lodge double figures with 11 points, but he was 4 of 14 from the floor. Illinois was 6 of 22 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range.

Ohio State, meanwhile, got a 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench from E.J. Liddell while Kaleb Wesson had 19 points. CJ Walker had 15 points, six boards and five assists. The Buckeyes are heading into the postseason on something of a roll after their turn-of-the-year struggles (in which they lost six of seven games). They’ve ripped off four straight that includes victories against Maryland, Michigan and the Illini. Michigan State is up next Sunday in the finale in yet another resume-boosting opportunity in the Big Ten.

San Diego State moves on after scare

There was a little space of time Thursday afternoon where teams like Dayton, Florida State and Seton Hall saw an opening. Air Force, the No. 9 seed in the Mountain West, led San Diego State, a presumptive No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, nearing the midway point of the second half. For a moment or two there, it look as though a top seed might open up.

Then the Aztecs got back to being the dominant force they are in that league, holding Air Force without a bucket for nearly the final four minutes and closing out the last 94 seconds on a 7-0 run.

It was a 13-point win, but still one in which they trailed for a big chunk of the game. Not great evidence to refute the idea that San Diego State has gone wobbly lately. First they lost at home to UNLV (who lost its MWC tourney opener Thursday) and then beat Colorado State and Nevada by just single digits. Easily could just be a team that’s been mostly unbeatable all season long getting a little bored with the stakes lowered a little bit. Or it could be something more.

We might find out in a couple weeks.

Tulsa wins a piece of the American

It wasn’t unreasonable to think heading into this season Frank Haith might be feeling the heat at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane made the First Four in his second season there and spent the subsequent three seasons missing the NCAA tournament. His peers in the American picked his team to finish 10th in the 12-team league in the preseason poll. All that doesn’t scream job security.

Winning the conference does, though.

Tulsa clinched at least a share of the American on Thursday when UConn knocked off Houston, 77-71, in Storrs. The Hurricane can wrap up the title to themselves if they’re able to beat Wichita State on the road Sunday.

No. 19 Ohio State wins fourth straight by beating Illinois

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kaleb Wesson scored 19 points to lead No. 19 Ohio State past No. 23 Illinois 71-63 on Thursday night.

E.J. Liddell tied a career high with 17 points and had 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes (21-9, 11-8 Big Ten), who have won four in a row and nine of their last 11. They are playing well at a critical time, with a road matchup against No. 16 Michigan State looming this weekend and the Big Ten tournament beginning Wednesday in Indianapolis.

Ayo Dosunmu had 21 points and five assists to pace Illinois (20-10, 12-7), which saw its conference championship hopes fade a bit more after starting the day a half-game behind leaders Maryland, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Still, the Illini are poised for a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.

Illinois led by as many as 11 in the first half and held a 37-30 lead at the break. The Buckeyes let fly with the 3-pointers in the opening frame but hit just one in seven tries.

After Illinois went up by seven, Ohio State chipped away and Kaleb Wesson’s fadeaway jumper tied the score at 51 with 9:30 left, part of an 11-2 run by the Buckeyes, who then built an eight-point lead.

After Wesson picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a 15-second span, Illinois got within five with a steal by Dosunmu and a coast-to-coast layup by Andres Feliz. But Liddell’s shot in the paint and a couple of foul shots by Duane Washington Jr. gave the Buckeyes a 69-60 lead with 32 seconds remaining.

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The Illini’s second-half shooting was cold and 14 turnovers didn’t help.

Ohio State: Despite bad 3-point shooting, the Buckeyes found a way to rally as a tumultuous regular season winds down.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Buckeyes could move up slightly, but they’re more concerned about tournament seeding at this point.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Hosts Iowa in its regular-season finale on Sunday.

Ohio State: Finishes the season on Sunday at Michigan State.

Ohio State suspends Luther Muhammed and Duane Washington, Jr.

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A reeling Ohio State team just made what should be a gimme home game against Nebraska a little tougher.

Contributors Luther Muhammed and Duane Washington, Jr. have both been suspended, Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann announced Tuesday shortly before tipoff. The suspension is for “failing to meet team expectations.”

The Buckeyes have lost four-straight against strong competition – West Virginia (neutral floor), Wisconsin (home), Maryland (away) and Indiana (away) but are slipping considerably in a hotly-contested Big Ten.  Nebraska is just 7-9 overall and 2-3 in the league, but does own victories over Iowa and Purdue.

The suspensions could last longer than just the game against the Huskers, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Washington is averaging 10.7 points per game while Muhammad, a 15-game starter now coming off the bench, is averaging 6.5 points per game. Perhaps most importantly, it leaves Holtmann and the Buckeyes exceedingly thin at guard with CJ Walker and D.J. Carton the only other backcourt options on the roster.

Ten Things to Know: Long road losing streaks end during wild day of college hoops

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College basketball was all about big road wins.

The Big 12 and ACC saw two huge road losing streaks end. The rest of the day saw some upsets along with an injury to keep tabs on.

BAYLOR GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN IN PHOG ALLEN FIELDHOUSE

Everything you need to know about the biggest game of the day can be found right here.

CLEMSON GOT ITS FIRST-EVER WIN (IN 60 TRIES!) IN CHAPEL HILL

Clemson basketball kicked off a big sports weekend for the school. The Tigers snapped their 0-59 mark in Chapel Hill with a 79-76 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

Brad Brownell’s team celebrated in euphoric fashion.

This isn’t your typical ACC road win. It was one of the premier streaks in college basketball. Clemson and North Carolina first played men’s basketball during the 1925-26 season. Both programs are founding members of the ACC.

Same conference.

Since 1953.

So for the Tigers to FINALLY earn a win in Chapel Hill, even if North Carolina happens to be down right now, is a monumental accomplishment.

For North Carolina, the recent freefall continues. The Tar Heels have lost three straight and dropped to 1-4 in ACC play. Following the loss, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams made some emotional remarks blaming himself.

Even though North Carolina is well outside of the top 25, they remain one of the most compelling teams in college hoops.

WEST VIRGINIA SHUTS DOWN TEXAS TECH

Things weren’t particularly pretty in Morgantown on Saturday night. Using seemingly its whole roster to wear down the Red Raiders, West Virginia earned an impressive Big 12 home win.

Despite only making three shots from three-point range on the night, West Virginia held a comfortable advantage thanks to one of the nation’s best defenses. The Mountaineers held Texas Tech to 28 percent shooting. The Red Raiders simply had no answer for the swarm of West Virginia defenders.

While West Virginia has continued to climb up the national rankings with an underrated array of quad one wins, this is one of the program’s best wins this season. The Mountaineers are surely a contender in the Big 12. The major question becomes if they are more than just a conference title contender. And more of a potential national title contender.

NICK RICHARDS IS THE KEY TO KENTUCKY’S SEASON

Over the course of the last four games, No. 14 Kentucky has asserted themselves as one of the best teams in college basketball once again. They’ve knocked off Louisville, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama during that run, and it should come as no coincidence that the best stretch of Kentucky’s season has come at the same time that Nick Richards has played the best basketball of his career.

In those four games, Richards is averaging 16.0 points, 10.0 boards and 2.5 blocks, but more importantly, he’s staying on the floor for more than 29 minutes per game. He’s starting to figure things out, and that, in turn, has helped build his confidence, his belief in himself.

“You can’t coach a kid’s confidence,” a source close to Kentucky said. “He needs to build it himself.”

He’s posting harder, he’s demanding the ball, he’s doing all of the things that Kentucky has been waiting for him to two do two-and-a-half years. And it hasn’t only helped Richards, the guards that feed him the rock have confidence in him as well. If you’re a point guard and you know Richards doesn’t want the ball, are you going to give him a post touch? Are you going to throw a post entry when you don’t think anything good will happen?

Saturday proved my point.

In the first half against Alabama, Richards had 11 points, six boards and four blocks, and Kentucky went into the break with a 45-35 lead. He finished with just two points in the second half, and Alabama cut the lead to one in the final two minutes.

OHIO STATE HAS NOW LOST FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES

The 12th-ranked Buckeyes dropped to 11-5 on the season and 1-4 in the Big Ten after losing their fourth straight game on Saturday, 66-54, to Indiana.

During that four game losing streak, Ohio State has shot 28-for-97 from three, a cool 28.9 percent. Prior to the start of this losing streak, after they beat Kentucky in Las Vegas and when they were sitting at No. 1 in KenPom and splitting votes with Gonzaga for No. 1 in the AP poll, the Buckeyes were shooting 41.5 percent from three as a team.

The reason why they are struggling from beyond the arc is a bigger question. Part of it is just regression — water eventually finds itself — and part of it is that as D.J. Carton has struggled, who had seven turnovers on Saturday, Ohio State’s offense has struggled. They don’t have the individual playmakers to create offense for themselves, and if Carton (and C.J. Walker) are struggling to create easy shots for their teammates, Ohio State becomes really limited offensively.

Oh, and should I mention that Ohio State’s second-leading scorer, Duane Washington, didn’t take a single shot and was benched for the final 30 minutes. He’s either hurt or Chris Holtmann is fed up with his defensive lapses.

Either way, what was clicking for the first month of the season is clearly no longer working.

AUBURN AND SAN DIEGO STATE ARE STILL UNDEFEATED

The No. 5 Tigers cruised past Georgia at home, winning 82-60, while the No. 7 Aztecs took care of business against Boise State at home, 83-65.

Auburn’s biggest tests of the season to date will come next week, as they travel to take on Alabama and Florida. SDSU heads to Fresno State on Tuesday and then will host Nevada next weekend.

OBI TOPPIN ROLLED HIS ANKLE

The star big man for No. 15 Dayton stepped on someone’s foot early in the second half of an 88-60 win over UMass and had to leave the game. He ended up leaving the game and returning to his team’s bench with a boot on his left foot.

Toppin told reporters after the game that, “it’s good.” Head coach Anthony Grant, speaking in his press conference after the game, said that he thought it was a sprained ankle and that the team would know more in the next 24 hours, but he did not sound overly concerned.

VIRGINIA DROPS SECOND STRAIGHT TO UNRANKED OPPONENT

It’s looking like defending national champion Virginia will fall out of the top 25 next week. A second consecutive loss to an unranked team on Saturday likely sealed the Cavaliers’ new fate.

After falling on the road at Boston College last game, Virginia fell to Syracuse at home.  The Orange earned an unlikely overtime win while also avenging its season-opening home loss to the ‘Hoos.

Hitting some massive three-pointers once overtime started, the Orange played completely free and with a lot of confidence once the extra session started. It also pointed to a continuing glaring issue Virginia has faced. Who is this team’s go-to player when they need a bucket?

Things don’t get easier for Virginia when they head on the road to Florida State next game. With three of their next four coming on the road, the Cavaliers have some work to do to stay with the ACC’s best.

GONZAGA AND DUKE CRUISE TO VICTORY

Easy day for No. 1 and No. 2 on Saturday.

Gonzaga made quick work of Loyola Marymount. The Bulldogs won by 25 on the road.

In the ACC, Duke ran past Wake Forest. The Blue Devils were fueled by Tre Jones in a 31-point victory.

MYLES POWELL, SETON HALL OUTDUEL MARKUS HOWARD, MARQUETTE

CBT’s Preseason All-America Team featured Myles Powell and Markus Howard both on the first team.

So Saturday’s Big East clash between Seton Hall and Marquette was must-see TV. Both stars finished an identical 8-for-22 from the field as Howard dropped 27 points and Powell delivered 23 points.

Most importantly, however, was the Pirates claiming the 69-55 Big East win. Seton Hall has six straight wins since Powell returned to the lineup from a concussion. Saturday’s win gives the Pirates a leg up on the rest of the league and Powell a leg up on Howard with one matchup to go.

Not many people seem to be talking about Seton Hall. That’s a mistake. This team is playing really well over the last several weeks and look like the possible team to beat in the Big East.

No. 12 Maryland scores solid Big Ten home win over No. 11 Ohio State

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Maryland secured a very good Big Ten home win on Tuesday night as the No. 12 Terrapins held off No. 11 Ohio State with a 67-55 victory.

Using stifling defense and balanced scoring, Maryland picked up what could be another quad one win while maintaining pace with the Big Ten’s top teams. Senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. paced the Terps with 20 points while soundly outplaying his Ohio State lead-guard counterparts.

Maryland (13-2, 3-1) also had 11 points from Jalen Smith and 10 points from Darryl Morsell. Six players for the Terps scored at least seven points each on a night where they didn’t need one player to take over. Coupled with the team’s impressive defense and it was a very strong win for Maryland.

Maryland did a strong job of defending on the interior.  Smith and freshman Chol Marial were both capable of slowing down Ohio State big man Kaleb Wesson and limiting his touches. The Maryland defense dared Ohio State’s perimeter shooting to beat them.

The Buckeyes simply had no answer if the Wesson brothers weren’t creating inside.

Ohio State shot 18 percent (5-for-27) from three-point range with 14 turnovers. Kaleb (15 points) and Andre Wesson (14 points) were consistent offensive threats for Ohio State when they weren’t bogged down by a collapsing Maryland defense. Freshman point guard D.J. Carton also chipped in 14 points with some garbage-time buckets to offset an up-and-down night. Outside of them? Ohio State had next to nothing.

Missing Kyle Young (injury) and dealing with a sluggish C.J. Walker (illness), the Buckeyes weren’t close to full strength. It didn’t help that Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. also both had off-shooting games. Muhammad and Washington were a combined 0-for-11 from three-point range on Tuesday.

After looking like one of college basketball’s elite teams early in the season, Ohio State is struggling. They’ve gone from the No. 1 team in the country at 9-0 to now losing four of their last six games. And while you can blame some missing rotation pieces and an off-shooting night for a loss to a top-12 team on the road the lack of offense is a troubling sign for the Buckeyes.

Point-guard play has to be more consistent for Ohio State while the outside shooting has to get better to make things easier for Kaleb Wesson.

Maryland’s win is particularly important given the team’s upcoming Big Ten schedule. Four of the next five games are on the road for the Terps as this will be a critical stretch to assess if this team is a Big Ten contender.