Battle-tested Buckeyes set for date with Spartans

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State will attempt to stretch its lead atop the Big Ten and build a little cushion in the ultra-competitive conference when its hosts No. 11 Michigan State on Saturday.

Even though the No. 2 Buckeyes (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) will still have two-thirds of the conference schedule left after the game, coach Thad Matta knows a head-to-head matchup with the closest pursuer is important because of the balance throughout the league.

"From top to bottom in the years I've been in the Big Ten this is probably as good as it's been," he said. "Sometimes there's a cut above, (but) the parity this year is just incredible."

The Spartans (18-5, 7-3) and Buckeyes can attest to that as they had to overcome struggles against lower teams this week leading to the showdown.