The Badgers are visiting Columbus tomorrow for the Buckeye’s last home game of the season and are looking for a measure of revenge. The Badgers lost to the Buckeyes on February 4th in the Kohl Center 58-52, and would like nothing more than to pay the Buckeyes back. With Ohio State’s recent struggles, both at home and on the road, the Badgers likely feel good about their chances to pull the upset – but they have to escape their own history first.
The Badgers started out their Big Ten season in ugly fashion. After a win over Nebraska, Bucky discovered themselves on a three game losing skid starting with a bad loss at home to a mid-level Iowa team. But the ship righted itself, allowing the Badgers to win six straight games heading into the beginning of February and the first matchup with the Buckeyes.
After the Bucks escaped the Kohl Center with their first win since 2000, Wisconsin has only been able to break even. The Badgers first visited rival Minnesota and walked away with a tough 68-61 overtime victory. Unfortunately, they had to follow that difficult game with a battle against Michigan State in East Lansing – a battle that saw the Spartans defeat the Badgers by 14.
Since that game in East Lansing the Badgers have split games against Penn State (65-55 W), and at Iowa (67-66 L), leaving Wisconsin at 9-6 overall in the Big Ten. Amazingly, a 9-6 record at this point in the season is good enough for fourth place in the conference. That puts the Badgers two games back behind Michigan and Ohio State (who are tied for second), and a game ahead of fifth place Indiana at 8-7.
While the Badgers have Minnesota and Illinois at home to finish their conference run, getting a win against the Buckeyes would be critical to remaining a step ahead of Indiana. Wisconsin has a very powerful need to stay in the #4 spot in the conference. Unlike in the past, where #4 and #5 would play each other in the second round of the Big Ten tournament, the addition of Nebraska has changed the structure of the tournament. #5 now has to play the #12 team on Thursday. You can be certain that Bo Ryan wants to avoid playing on that first day.
Senior guard Jordan Taylor (6-1, 195), however, may have a different perspective. This Wisconsin team is ostensibly his, so to have allowed Ohio State to steal a win in the Kohl Center for the first time in 12 years under his watch certainly grates on him. Taylor will come into Columbus with plans to exact revenge and take away Senior Day from William Buford. Whether he can do it or not will depend on his supporting cast.
Against the Badgers in Madison Jared Sullinger went off for one of his best games of the season, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. This was a failure of Wisconsin interior defense, primarily led by junior forward/center Jared Berggren (6-10, 235). While Berggren had a solid game with 10 points, his three rebounds were a disappointing sign of an inability to control the lane against Sullinger. Junior forward Mike Bruesewtiz (6-6, 222) made up for some of the issues in the lane picking up 11 points and 11 rebounds – including four critical offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, his height put him at a severe disadvantage against Sullinger and it showed. Sullinger dominated against the overmatched Badgers inside and managed to secure the win for his team.
But the game as a whole was far from domination. Wisconsin’s perimeter defense was strong against OSU’s shooters as Buford, Craft, and Smith combined for a disappointing 18 points in total. The Badgers also did an excellent job in limiting any production from the OSU bench, which managed to score nothing all game in 23 total minutes of play.
This year, rather than attacking the paint regularly, the Badgers are more of an outside shooting team. The Buckeyes benefited from this strategy earlier this month with the Badgers hitting only 5 of 27 three point attempts. Many of those attempts were decent looks at the basket that just didn’t go down. If the Buckeyes want to win this second meeting they will have to play much better perimeter defense and seal off some of those Wisconsin looks from downtown. If the Badgers begin to drop outside shots this game could get out of hand quickly.
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||23.75||6.0||47.2||55.2||39.2||4.679||2.071||1.071||0.107||1.893|
We know this is William Buford’s last home game. Considering his love for this university, we know that he will be playing with great emotion and will likely bring his “A” game. Unfortunately, there are also others on this team who may never play a game in the Schott again. Jared Sullinger, who could have left for the NBA after last year, may choose to jump to the professional ranks after this season. There’s also the chance that DeShaun Thomas, one of the Bucks most consistent scorers this season, may decide to take his game to the next level. Hopefully they do decide to return next year. If they don’t, let’s make certain to send them out the right way – with a win over the Bucky Badgers.
The Buckeyes will play the Wisconsin Badgers in Value City Arena at 4:00 PM EST on February 26th, 2012. You’ll be able to see the game on CBS.