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Ohio St. gears for Michigan

– The temperature outside Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center was in the teens and the wind chill near zero. And the students kept coming over Monday.

They set up tents on the cold concrete, waiting for prime seats for tonight’s game against rival Michigan.

Fans at the encampment, dubbed Mattaritaville after coach Thad Matta, know this is a big game. So do the Buckeyes.

“The fans get a little more excited about it,” senior point guard Aaron Craft said. “It’s always great to feed off your own fans’ energy. There’s people out there camping outside right now in this weather. That makes you want to play a little harder.”

When the rivals meet, it’s always a red-letter day for fans. For this particular meeting, there’s a ton riding on the outcome, too.

Ohio State (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten) has won three in a row to climb back to No. 22 in this week’s Associated Press poll after plummeting out of the rankings in the wake of a 1-5 spell in January.

“We just have to be ready to play,” post player Amir Williams said. “We can’t come out lackadaisical, come out like it’s just some other game. It’s a priority to build our standing in the Big Ten and help our place in the Big Ten tournament.”

Michigan (17-6, 9-2) shares the top spot in the conference with Michigan State but is coming off an 85-67 loss at Iowa on Saturday. The matchup with Ohio State is the Wolverines’ third Big Ten road game in 10 days.

The Wolverines have not won in Columbus in more than 11 years.

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