Preview: Wisconsin at #11 Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on January 29, 2013 at 1:30p
Senior Day revenge is on the Buckeyes' minds.
Ohio State Buckeyes #11 Ohio State 15-4, 5-2 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 7:00 PM ET - ESPN —— The Schott Columbus, OH Wisconsin Badgers Wisconsin 14-6, 5-2 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

Ohio State-Michigan will forever be the premier rival for each school. But recently, Wisconsin has crept up the list for the Buckeyes. On the football field and inside arenas, the schools have played classic games during the past decade.

The last time the two schools met, Ohio State ended up on the wrong side of things, and it took place on Senior Day in Value City Arena. That result has not been absent from the minds of current Buckeyes.

“They beat us on Will (Buford)’s last game, so we kind of want to play this for him because we sent him out with a loss, and we didn’t appreciate doing that,” sophomore guard Shannon Scott said.

Since joining Ohio State, Thad Matta’s teams have won five regular-season Big Ten championships and three tournament titles. But another constant has been Wisconsin’s success over the Buckeyes. Bo Ryan is 10-7 against Matta and the Badgers own a 12-8 record in the past 20 meetings with Ohio State.

Despite playing at home, Ohio State is susceptible to another loss to the pesky Badgers. They’ve already proven they can win on the road, knocking off Indiana in Assembly Hall. In discussing Wisconsin, Matta and Scott each used the word “great.” That is debatable, but what’s fact is these two schools tend to give the other their best shot.

“Honestly, it seems like all the games that we’ve played have had major implications for one reason or another,” Matta said.

The two most prominent examples are the No. 1 vs. No. 2 game in 2007, when Ohio State knocked off top-ranked Wisconsin in Columbus. Four years later, the Badgers returned the favor, defeating No. 1 Ohio State in Madison.

Tuesday night’s game doesn’t feature the best team in the country or even the Big Ten, for that matter. But the winner will send a message to Michigan, Indiana and Michigan State that the Big Three has company.

“Honestly, after (tonight’s) game, it's going to be like, ‘OK, Nebraska,’” said Matta, referencing Saturday’s opponent. “It’s another Big Ten challenge.”

4 A. Craft JR 6-2/190 8.8 3.3 4.7 G 1 B. Brust JR 6-1/195 10.4 5.6 2.9
32 L. Smith Jr. JR 6-4/205 10.2 5.8 1.8 G 12 T. Jackson SO 6-2/213 5.8 2.0 2.3
12 S. Thompson SO 6-7/190 7.5 3.5 1.1 F 31 M. Brusewitz SR 6-6/223 7.1 5.1 1.6
1 D. Thomas JR 6-7/225 20.0 6.5 1.4 F 5 R. Evans SR 6-6/208 10.9 7.8 1.7
23 A. Williams SO 6-11/250 4.2 3.8 0.2 C 40 J. Berggren SR 6-10/235 12.0 6.4 0.9


The entire conference is learning that every night presents a challenge. Wisconsin is currently in its toughest stretch of the season, facing a ranked opponent for the third consecutive game. Coming off a high, the Badgers are prone to a letdown. On Saturday Traevon Jackson, the son of Buckeye legend Jim Jackson, made a game-winning shot against Minnesota just before the buzzer. But if there’s a team built to avoid a trap, it is the Badgers.

Ryan has the same methodical system, and it’s been at its finest this season. Low-scoring games have long been Wisconsin’s M.O. One look at leading scorer Jared Berggren’s stats reveal the same philosophy – he’s averaging 12 points per game.

“The pace is probably a little bit different than what we’ve gone against thus far,” Matta said. “But I think our guys understand that you can look at the scores the last couple of games and say, 'hey, it’s probably going to be a low-possession type of game, but they will run and score and transition.'”

There’s been some discussion about the absence of sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky, who suffered an eye injury two weeks ago, and how it's affected Berggren’s output. Without Kaminsky in the lineup, Berggren’s production has dipped considerably.

“I think he’s a little tight right now,” Ryan said. “He needs to get a game here or a flourish of hitting some free throws, getting to the glass, getting a putback or two, hitting a three, because he’s a good pick-and-pop guy for a big man.”

The improvements could begin against the Buckeyes. Berggren has long been a thorn in their side and there’s a possibility Kaminsky could return. Regardless, Berggren said he realizes he has to let the frustration subside and take advantage of his scoring opportunities.

Despite Ohio State’s ability to score points in recent seasons, Wisconsin’s style and gritty defense has often knocked the Buckeyes off their game. Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Brusewitz, a group of players that seem to have been in college for 10 years, have contributed to the slowing down of Ohio State.

Whether Wisconsin can continue to win games in its traditional slugfest ways remains to be seen. The Badgers are shooting 40 percent from the field and a shade over 50 percent from the free throw line. Strong defense or not, those numbers eventually catch up with you.

“That’s definitely one way of looking at it, or you can look at it the other way,” Berggren said this week. “We’re winning games when we’re shooting the ball pretty horribly. When we get those things clicking, we can be a dangerous team.”

While that statement might be true, like Ohio State, the season is ticking away. It’s late January and drastic changes usually don’t happen overnight. The Buckeyes’ problem has been finding a second scorer. Wisconsin needs one scorer. In the past three games, no starter has reached double digits, an incredible statistic.

“I think what we see is when we really start sharing the basketball and moving without it, then we have a tendency to have the ball go in because we end up getting easier shots,” Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard said. “We’ve taken some tough shots at times and maybe dribbled a little bit too much sometimes.”

Luckily for Wisconsin, defense never goes out of style.

“You don’t go cold on defense,” Berggren said. “That’s just a mindset. That’s just mental toughness and determination. So those are things you can do every night no matter how the ball is bouncing. We’ll work our way out of our shooting slumps.”

Buckeye Breakdown

Defense will be the No. 1 priority for Wisconsin in defeating another top-tier team on the road. It will start with containing Aaron Craft, not Deshaun Thomas. The Badgers have had difficulty slowing down guards, and few can generate havoc like Craft.

The entire Ohio State frontcourt will be an area of concentration for Wisconsin. With Sam Thompson’s sudden outburst at Penn State, he’s just one more highlight on the scouting report.

Shannon Scott: a sensational sophomore.

Still, if Thomas can be held down, Ryan and Wisconsin like their chances. What makes it hard to contain him is he can shoot from anywhere and it doesn’t matter if someone is in his face. Since the conference season began, Thomas has been responsible for 32 percent of the Buckeyes’ scoring output.

“A lot of people think he’s a great player, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing what I can do against him,” Evans said.

The group that could help take pressure off Thomas is Ohio State’s talented sophomore class. Thompson, Scott, LaQuinton Ross, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald came to Columbus looking to make an immediate impact. None of them had that effect on last year’s Final Four team.

All four of them have shown potential this season, with Scott being the most steady. But he also provided the season’s most shocking moment, when he hoisted up and an ill-advised three-pointer in the closing seconds at Michigan State.

“I’m not dwelling on it,” Scott said Monday. “I just want to find a way to move on from it and make better decisions next time. I think it’s going to help my game a lot.”

That’s the mindset of a veteran. Ross and McDonald, the least experienced of the sophomores, are anything but veterans. In Ross’ case, it’s something fans wish wasn’t true. They still clamor for the sharpshooting Ross, but an academic setback during his freshman season has cut into his development. In Year 2, he still frequently gets lost on offense and defense.

Thompson, Scott and Williams, regulars in the rotation, say that learning curve ends with experience. It’s something that will eventually come for Ross and McDonald, but in the meantime, Thompson believes progress is happening daily.

“I think we're definitely getting better every day,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for. It hasn't always been as smooth as we'd like it be, but I think we're all coming into our own.”

This season coming to practice means putting in work. On a veteran-laden team a season ago, that wasn’t always the case. Not that players were habitually slacking off, but they knew their services would rarely be needed. That has changed dramatically.

“I feel like a more important part of the team,” Scott said. “I know I have to come in and make plays at all times. I can’t just be another member on the floor. I’ve got to make stuff happen. I feel like I have more of a role, and I really like it.”

So does Matta who, once again, is developing talent.


  • Ohio State owns an 83-66 record all-time versus Wisconsin. 
  • The Badgers have won three of their past five games against ranked opponents.
  • Deshaun Thomas is one of three players in the country averaging 20 points and six rebounds. The others are Creighton's Doug McDermott and VMI's Stan Okoye. 
  • The last Buckeyes to average 20 and six were Evan Turner and Michael Redd.
  • Mike Tirico, Dan Dakich and Samantha Ponder have the call.

Comments Show All Comments

EazyElmo's picture

Why do we have to listen to Dan Dakich again? I can only take so much gushing over the awesomeness that is Indiana high school basketball

rgarrett22's picture

I don't understand why so many people on 11W hate on Dakich. He's my favorite color commentator for college hoops on the ESPN networks.  He provides solid insights, measured enthusiasm, and seems to enjoy his job! Nothing wrong with that! And Tirico's calm, professional approach balances him out perfectly.

buckeye4life050233's picture

Gus Johnson is the standard, all be it he is the best personally in my opinion

Chris Lauderback's picture

I'm with you. I think, while annoying at times, he's the best color analyst out there. 

Jack Fu's picture

Totally agree. Dakich is informative, enthusiastic, and doesn't take himself too seriously. He's very good.

d5k's picture

Imo, it's not a big 3, it is either a big 2 (IU and UM) or a big 6 in terms of the best bball teams in the B1G right now.  There's nothing separating OSU, MSU, Wisconsin or Minnesota even.  The order of the schedule is the primary thing that impacts their current records.  Not sure why beating us at home by 3 points makes MSU in the same class as IU and UM.  We will likely be favored by 3 or 4 when they come here.

bhartman13's picture

The Buckeyes can't afford to slip up tonight if they want to have any chance at competing for the regular season B1G title.  I think scUM and IU have separated themselves in the conference but with so many tough teams I can see each of them dropping at least a couple more games.  I fear the Wiscy defense will cause problems tonight so someone besides DT needs to step up like Slam Thompson did last game.  Gotta like the Buckeyes at home but I'm feeling a down to the wire battle.

tampa buckeye's picture

Hey its simple shoot the ball in the basket and they roll. Ohio state matches up well. I'm waiting for Smith. Jr to explode. Ross need to start over someone. Would like to see one good coaching.move Ie. Full court pressure. They need to let these guys run. Not too many teams can match the d of Smith craft Thompson for 40 mins

bhartman13's picture

I really like the idea of pressuring the ball and trying to get out and run more.  The set offense is pretty weak overall unless DT, Thompson, and Lenzelle are hitting 3's which opens up lanes for Craft and Scott.  When the shooters are missing and the offense is struggling then Matta should really push the tempo and apply more pressure on defense to hopefully translate that into fast break points.  There is plenty of athleticism and very good on the ball defenders to make this happen.  With Wiscy tonight I'm not sure how possible it is because of their slow style of play but maybe the deep shots will be falling tonight.  Also I'm not sure if Ross needs to start yet because he still looks lost at times but then again he has shown some flashes on the offensive end.  I like Slam's progression this season as he seems to be much more confident in his outside shot and we all know he can fly and finish around the rim.

Moses Cleveland's picture

Win one for WB!
Who, by the way, is not exactly tearing it up in Spain right now.

gwalther's picture

I think we win tonight in a close one. Probably something like 84-82.

Class of 2008

Firedup's picture

Will either team break 50 tonight??  I think we are going to struggle with turnovers  tonight, with the physical defense we will see.  

"Making the Great State of Ohio Proud!" UFM

BucksfanXC's picture

Ugh, I dread watching this game and the outcome

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Jack Fu's picture

I hate when OSU plays Wisconsin. I get frustrated when the Bucks turn the ball over or put up bad shots to begin with. With so few possessions, those kinds of mistakes are going to be magnified and drive me even crazier.
I'm terrified of Berggren. He got his against OSU last year and has only improved so far this season. I'm worried he could eat Amir alive.

rockford's picture

Is Amir weak are is he just bad. Bob Baptist contends he is not focused but it appears to me he is a year away from being a force on the inside.

RBuck's picture

I think that Scott needs to get a lot minutes tonight to apply more pressure defense and to get an extra ball-handler on the court with Craft. Thing is... if Smith Jr. gets hot you got to leave him in the the game. Well, I guess that's why Matta makes the big bucks.

Long live the southend.

rockford's picture

The Buckeyes will more than likely get hammered on the boards, but squeak out a victory.

buckeye4life050233's picture

Going to the game tonight dunno if im excited or not the team this year has been disappointing, oozing with talent that just can't quite seem to figure it out yet.  guys need to perform their roles with no let down.  if the offense gets stagnant they need to run plays 3 and 4 times to get deshaun a shot to jumpstart them.  As well i would like to see them get deshaun the ball on the free throw line corners and free throw extended.  Hopefully the shots fall tonight