by Andrew Crum
IU Super Bowl Student News Bureau
INDIANAPOLIS—The Big Ten tournament got what its first 10 games proved to be the best match-up in the championship on Sunday afternoon.
Michigan State versus Ohio State: two teams who split their regular-season series in bitter fashion.
Two teams whose success today will be determined by a key match-up in the frontcourt between the tournament’s two most outstanding players, Michigan State’s Draymond Green and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger and Green have put their teams on their backs all weekend, each coming up big when they were needed most.
Sullinger dominated Purdue in Ohio State’s first tournament game, scoring 30 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and blocking three shots in an 88-71 win. Against Michigan, Sullinger was dominating in the paint: He scored 24 points (16 in the first half), grabbed six rebounds and also blocked two shots in a 77-55 victory.
Green has been just as overpowering. He had 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked three shots in a 17-point win over Iowa. Against Wisconsin, Green struggled in the first half from the field but did his part by rebounding and handing out assists. He finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds, along with five assists and three blocked shots in a 65-52 victory.
The teams split their series this season, each winning on the others home court.
On Feb. 4,.Michigan State ended Ohio State’s 39-game home winning streak with a 58-48 win. Green finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and only three turnovers in 34 minutes. Sullinger, by contrast had 17 points, 16 rebounds, two steals, one block and 10 of his team’s 15 turnovers playing all 40 minutes.
Ohio State evened the score on March 4, denying Michigan State the outright regular season title with a 72-70 win on a last-second shot by William Buford. Sullinger had 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal and only one turnover in 33 minutes. Green, had 19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and had four of the team’s 13 turnovers.
And this time, the game will likely come down to which big man steps up the most.
“You’re looking at two, I think, future NBA great players, going head to head,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta.
What makes the matchup compelling is that neither Sullinger or Green seem to have an edge over the other. Sullinger has averaged 27 points, nine rebounds, 2.5 blocks and playing 31.5 minutes a game in the tournament. Green has averaged 17.5 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks in 30 minutes a game.
On Saturday, Sullinger was already looking forward to the matchup with Green.
“The competition, coming at each other, giving (each other) their best shot,” Sullinger said. “He’s mister do it all for Michigan State.”