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Buckeyes return to No. 1 spot in basketball polls

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Ohio State returned to No. 1 in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll, the third straight week there was been a change at the top.

The Buckeyes, who were No. 1 for four weeks before falling to second for two weeks, replaced Duke at the top of the rankings Monday.

Ohio State received 45 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel, easily outdistancing Kansas, which moves up one place with 14 No. 1 votes.

BYU, which had five first-place votes, jumped from seventh to third, while Pittsburgh remained fourth, tied with Duke, which lost at Virginia Tech on Saturday and had one first-place vote. Purdue, Texas, Notre Dame, San Diego State and Wisconsin round out the top 10. Duke picked up the last remaining first-place vote.

The Buckeyes welcome being No. 1 a second time.

“I tell our team all the time we want to be No. 1 at the end of the season,” coach Thad Matta said. “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.”

Ohio State has a quick turnaround from Sunday afternoon’s 82-61 home win over Indiana. The Buckeyes play at Penn State on Tuesday night, then have a few days to get ready for next Sunday’s showdown with No. 10 Wisconsin. After Ohio State had raced to a 24-0 record, it was the Badgers who pulled out a 71-67 victory in Madison, Wis., on Feb. 12.

The only other loss this year for Ohio State was at No. 6 Purdue.

The Buckeyes (27-2, 14-2) are 19-0 in Columbus and need one more 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 Big Ten 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.”

The next 10 in the latest rankings include Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, St. John’s, Connecticut, Georgetown, Arizona, Villanova and Kentucky.

Rounding out the Top 25 are Vanderbilt, Missouri, Xavier, Texas A&M and Utah State, which rejoined the poll.