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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After getting through its toughest stretch of the season, Ohio State is back at No. 1.
For the third week in a row The Associated Press Top 25 poll has had a new team on top. The Buckeyes climbed a spot over Duke, which lost at Virginia Tech on Saturday night.
The Buckeyes welcome their return.
“I tell our team all the time we want to be No. 1 at the end of the season,” coach Thad Matta said on Monday. “We want to be playing our best basketball in March. Moving to No. 1 is a tribute to how hard our guys have worked all year. We appreciate the recognition and our guys certainly deserve it.”
The Buckeyes were No. 1 for four weeks after reeling off a 24-0 record. Then came losses at Wisconsin and at Purdue in a span of nine days, sandwiched around a win over Michigan State.
Coming off two wins, and with two regular-season games remaining, the Buckeyes picked up a win Sunday 82-61 at home over Indiana and win Tuesday against Penn State. Then comes a showdown at home with No. 10 Wisconsin on Sunday.
The Buckeyes (27-2, 14-2) need one win to clinch at least a share of their fourth Big Ten championship in six years. Two wins, and they’re assured of their third outright title in that span.
David Lighty, a fifth-year senior who is the Buckeyes’ defensive specialist and third-leading scorer, said the immediate concern is winning the conference title.
“It means a lot. That’s our No. 1 goal right now,” he said. “That’s our first step to reaching our second goal. So you’ve got to take care of the task at hand. It’s like coach always says, it’s one game at a time. When we do that, everything else just falls into place.”
Lighty already has two Big Ten championship rings. He said he shows them to his teammates.
“It’s big for us; everyone wants a ring,” he said. “So hanging another banner up would be great.”