Ohio St. faces big week

RUSTY MILLER AP Sports Writer Published:

COLUMBUS (AP) -- As he was preparing to speak with reporters on Monday, Ohio State coach Thad Matta coughed and sneezed. He said several of his players also had bad colds.

Someone said, "At least you don't have any big games to play."

"No," he said with a grin. "It's another week."

Far from it. The 10th-ranked Buckeyes face a daunting stretch when they travel to play No. 3 Michigan on Tuesday night -- the first time they've met when both are in the Top 10 -- then host top-ranked Indiana on Sunday.

Point guard Aaron Craft made the usual disclaimer -- the Buckeyes wouldn't be looking past anybody and they're only worried about the next opponent -- but then conceded that players do try to gauge what it will take to win a conference title.

"You think about that when the season starts and every game coming in," he said. "We lost the two (games), and we just wanted to get to the halfway point in the Big Ten season 7-2 and we were fortunate enough to do that. You always have got to play with a bigger picture in mind. That helps us play better. It gives every possession and every situation more significance. You take it more seriously if it's in the grander scope of things."

It couldn't get much grander than this week.

Michigan (20-2, 7-2) would seem to have plenty of motivation. The Wolverines are coming off an 81-73 loss on Saturday night that knocked them out of the No. 1 spot. They were atop the Associated Press poll for the first time since Nov. 30, 1992 -- but their stay there lasted exactly one week. That loss dropped them two spots in the latest media voting.

On top of that, their only previous loss was a 56-53 setback at Ohio State on Jan. 13. Deshaun Thomas had 20 points for the Buckeyes in that game including the first and last baskets in a 16-0 first-half spurt that helped them build a 21-point lead. That barely held up when a tying stepback 15-footer by Columbus native Trey Burke in the final seconds rattled around and out.

The Buckeyes (17-4, 7-2) know they cannot afford many more losses if they want to remain in contention for a fourth straight conference title.

"It's going to mean a lot for this team," said Thomas, who leads the Big Ten in scoring at 20 points a game. "It's going to be tough. It's going to be big if we get these two wins."

Matta was asked if he ever tries to do the math of what it'll take his team to win a regular-season title in the Big Ten.

"Yeah, I sat down and broke down everybody's schedule and put up a flow chart," he deadpanned before admitting he didn't know who the Buckeyes played beyond their games this week.

The hardest part of Ohio State's schedule lies ahead, starting with this treacherous week.

The game against Indiana (20-2, 8-1) begins a span of four home games in five starts for the Buckeyes, with contests vs. the Hoosiers and Northwestern before a huge road game at Wisconsin, followed by games at Value City Arena against Minnesota and Michigan State.

Then come difficult road games at Northwestern and Indiana before closing the regular season at home against Illinois, which destroyed the Buckeyes 74-55 back on Jan. 5 in Assembly Hall.

The first step comes Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the Wolverines are 13-0 at Crisler Center this season and 28-1 over the last two years.

"The biggest concern right now is going up and playing a Michigan team that just took a loss," Craft said. "They're going to be ready to get after it, not only because they just lost but because we were their first loss of the year."

TOP 25

NO. 9 SYRACUSE 63, NO. 25 NOTRE DAME 47

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- C.J. Fair had 18 points and 10 rebounds, freshman Jerami Grant scored a season-high 14 points, and No. 9 Syracuse beat No. 25 Notre Dame 63-47 on Monday night to snap a two-game losing streak that had dropped the Orange three spots in the rankings.

Syracuse (19-3, 7-2 Big East) was coming off consecutive road losses against Villanova and Pittsburgh and has only three conference losses in its last 32 Big East games. The Orange have now won a school-record 36 straight games at home, the longest active streak in Division I. Notre Dame (18-5, 6-4) had won three straight.

It was the first meeting between the teams since the Irish handed Syracuse its only conference loss last season, 67-58 at Purcell Pavilion last January.

No. 23 PITTSBURGH 56, SETON HALL 46

PITTSBURGH -- Lamar Patterson scored 12 points and Pittsburgh pulled away late from Seton Hall.

Freshman center Steven Adams added eight points, 15 rebounds and two blocks for the Panthers (19-5, 7-4 Big East), who won for the sixth time in their last seven games by simply surviving on a night they struggled to get into any sort of rhythm.

Cameron Wright scored six of his eight points during a game-ending 18-8 surge that prevented Pitt from suffering a letdown following an emotional win over Syracuse on Saturday.

Fuquan Edwin led the Pirates (13-10, 2-8) with 23 points but was slowed after injuring his right ankle midway through the second half. Seton Hall shot just 33 percent (14 of 42) from the field and made just two baskets over the final 10 minutes.

OHIO COLLEGE

WRIGHT STATE 62, LOYOLA 59

DAYTON -- Cole Darling scored a game-high 17 points and Wright State used a second-half rally to top Loyola of Chicago 62-59 in a Horizon League matchup Monday night.

Jerran Young added 11 points to help Wright State (15-8, 6-4) snap a three-game losing streak.

Trailing 34-22 at halftime, Wright State started the second half on a 14-5 run and cut the deficit to three, 39-36, behind Joe Bramanti's 3-pointer with 12:02 left to play.

After Loyola (13-10, 3-7) answered with a 12-2 run to push the lead back to double figures, 51-38, with 7:54 left, Wright State responded by outscoring the Ramblers 21-8 to tie the game at 59 with 2:12 remaining. Young and Miles Dixon made back-to-back 3-pointers during the run.

Darling's jumper with 1:18 to go put the Raiders ahead 61-59 and Loyola missed four shots in the final minute.

Christian Thomas led the Ramblers with 13 points.

Indiana back to No. 1

For the fifth straight week there is a new No. 1 in The Associated Press' college basketball poll. This time it's Indiana.

The Hoosiers, the preseason No. 1 who held the top spot for the first five weeks of the regular season, moved up two spots Monday, following their weekend win over No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Kansas' loss to Oklahoma State.

Duke started the current streak of new No. 1s and was followed by Louisville, Duke again, Michigan and Indiana. The last time there were five straight new No. 1s was the last five polls of 2008-09 when it was Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Connecticut again, North Carolina and Louisville.

The Hoosiers received 58 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel while Florida, which jumped two spots to second, got the other seven.

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