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12:45 PM PT1:45 PM MT2:45 PM CT3:45 PM ET8:45 PM GMT4:45 PM 北京时间1:45 PM MST3:45 PM EST, Feb 24, 2019
Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan  Attendance: 12,707

Big Ten battle heats up as No. 7 Michigan hosts No. 10 Michigan State

The matchup most of the Big Ten has been anticipating all season has finally arrived.

Actually, as No. 7 Michigan prepared to host No. 10 Michigan State on Sunday, it's just the first of two showdowns that will take place over the final two weeks of the regular season. Michigan State will host Michigan on March 9 to finish off Big Ten play.

By then, there's a good chance one of the rivals will be Big Ten champions and Sunday's matchup is the first chance to see which team has the upper hand with each in a dogfight with Purdue to remain atop the conference.

And while Sunday's game will guarantee nothing in the conference race, there's no getting away from what the rivalry means to each program.

"Everybody says they all count one," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "They do all count one at the end of the day. ... But when two big schools are both doing well in the same state, yeah, it means a little more. And it probably always will mean a little more, and it probably always has meant a little more."

The rivalry between the two schools assures it will always be a big game, but this season has the added spice of the conference race as well as the fact it pits two teams that believe they are Final Four worthy. It's just the third time in the history of the series each team has been ranked in the top 10 when they met, all three coming under Izzo and Michigan coach John Beilein.

Both teams are doing their best not to get too caught up in anything outside of the fact they need a win, no matter who it comes against.

"They are standing in the way of a Big Ten conference championship," Beilein said. "So are several other teams. This is just another one of those teams. They're really good. I know it means an awful lot to our fans. That's why it means an awful lot to us."

Michigan freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis added, "I kind of feel the fans hype up the game bigger than it actually is. Obviously, the game is big, but at the end of the day, it's a regular-season game. To me, it's not any bigger than Minnesota, or the other games because at the end of the day it's about winning, and it's about us."

Michigan (24-3, 13-3 Big Ten) has the upper hand entering the game, playing at home and having won three in a row in the series, including in last season's Big Ten tournament semifinals before the Wolverines marched to the national championship game.

Michigan State (22-5, 13-3) comes in short-handed. Junior guard Joshua Langford is out for the season with a foot injury while junior center Nick Ward will likely miss his second straight game after suffering a hairline fracture in his left hand. The status of junior wing Kyle Ahrens is also in question after he reaggravated a back injury in Wednesday's win over Rutgers.

"He says he thinks he can play," Izzo said of Ahrens. "Most kids I'm not sure would be playing at all. He's done it now for six, eight, 10 weeks. I'm just proud that he still plays as hard as he does. I still think he's an important cog to the wheel, especially with all the people we're missing."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 23, 2019

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