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Spartans value ‘nitty-gritty’ part of Big Ten season

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Denzel Valentine drives into the paint for a basket off the glass during MSU's win over Wisconsin last week.

East Lansing – Michigan State enters the final two weeks of the regular season with at least a thought that a share of the Big Ten regular-season title is up for grabs, but that hasn’t become the focus.

The Spartans, after having the weekend off, get back to work Tuesday night on the road against Ohio State, but coach Tom Izzo is keeping his focus fairly narrow.

“With two weeks left we’re right down to the nitty-gritty,” Izzo said on Monday. “Nothing has really changed for me. The hunt for the Big Ten championship has taken a few twists and turns with some surprising losses by some teams. But nothing has really changed anything. Our focus is getting better right now.”

Iowa has lost two of its last three while Maryland was also upset last week. It has created a logjam near the top of the standings and Michigan State (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) is still in the mix.

The Spartans, however, will face an Ohio State team that is currently in fourth place in the conference and has won four straight. The Buckeyes (18-10, 10-5) are also fighting to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

BIG TEN STANDINGS

“We’re gonna get a hot team with a lot on the line,” Izzo said. “So it will probably be tournament-type fever and that’s probably good for us right now.”

Izzo added guard Tum Tum Nairn is still limited in practice with plantar fasciitis and will only be available in short stints, while forward Kenny Goins is still a couple of weeks away from returning from a knee injury.

“Kenny is nowhere near coming back,” Izzo said. “That's a couple weeks away, minimum.”