With first place on the line in Columbus the expectation was that #11 Michigan State and #3 Ohio State would play a tight, physical affair. And that's exactly what it was, with the visitors from East Lansing seeming to be the more comfortable of the two teams in the first half. Michigan State shot 46.9% from the field but the reason for their 35-25 lead at the half was their defense, as they limited Ohio State to 33.3% and forced eight turnovers.
NO. 1 KENTUCKY (24-1, 10-0 SEC) AT VANDERBILT (17-7, 6-3 SEC)
Time: 9 p.m.
Saturday is the day that many college basketball fans have been waiting for, with a number of important matchups on the slate. One of those games is #4 Missouri (22-2, 9-2) hosting #6 Baylor (21-3, 8-3) with the Bears looking to keep alive their fleeting hopes of winning the league title. Scott Drew's team is 0-3 in games against the two teams now ahead of them in the standings, most recently being whipped by Kansas in Waco.
The matchup between the two best teams in the SEC was expected to be a competitive affair, one that would challenge John Calipari's squad and show how much of a national title contender they really are. The answer was an emphatic one, as Kentucky controlled the game on both ends of the floor in a 78-58 win that didn't seem all that close in the second half.
While there's little doubt at this point in the season as to who many believe to be the best team in the country as top-ranked Kentucky (23-1, 9-0) is the unanimous selection in both major polls, some doubt can be added to the SEC race should #7 Florida (19-4, 7-1) win in Lexington on Tuesday night.
Rivalry games bring more to the table when it comes to intensity, and that was definitely the case in the battle between #4 Missouri and #8 Kansas in Columbia on Saturday night. In a game that featured many momentum swings and neither team leading by more than eight points, it was Frank Haith's Tigers who landed the final blow. Kansas led 71-63 with 3:25 remaining but they would not score again, as Missouri finished the game on an 11-0 run to win 74-71.
Tuesday's night matchup between #9 Michigan State and Illinois wasn't a pretty affair, as neither team could establish much of a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. Whether it was due to good defense or just an inability to make shots on a consistent basis, neither the Spartans nor the Fighting Illini had much succes on that end of the floor. But when it's all said and done what matters is the result, which was a 42-41 Illinois victory as Brandon Paul made two free throws with 45 seconds remaining.
It's been an interesting couple of days in college basketball when it comes to travel issues, with Purdue having to bus to Michigan State in the early hours of Saturday for a noon tip. While the Boilermakers hung tough in the first half they lost their legs in the second as the Spartans rolled. So what was going to happen to San Diego State, whose trek to Laramie for an important Mountain West game against Wyoming took 20 hours, not to mention the fact that they'd be playing more than 7,000 feet above sea level?
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