Game Preview: No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers

Here is an inside look as the Buckeyes head to Madison for a Big Ten and top-15 road test against Wisconsin.
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No. 15 Ohio State (11-4) is looking to bounce back from a last-second loss to Purdue when the Buckeyes head to Madison to take on No. 10 Wisconsin (12-3) on Saturday afternoon. They’ll then have eight days off before returning home to host Michigan State on Sunday, January 31. Rumors are swirling that Ohio State might try to add a non-conference game next week but, for now, past the Badgers, their next opponent remains the Spartans.

Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Game Time: 4 p.m.
TV Coverage: CBS
Radio Coverage: 97.1 The Fan

The loss to Purdue on Tuesday was a tough blow as the Buckeyes led for more than 35 minutes of action. The second half never felt entirely comfortable, though, as the Boilermakers chipped away at the Ohio State lead and then used some timely 3-point shooting as the dagger. Purdue couldn’t buy a 3-pointer all night, shooting 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) until the final minute, when they hit two crucial treys (one to tie the game and then one to win it).

Ohio State Overview

Bounce-back basketball has been a theme for the Buckeyes this season. Following its three earlier losses, Ohio State has come back and beaten its next opponent - UCLA by 7, Nebraska by 36 and Rutgers by 11.

The Buckeyes have had to bounce back in other ways as well after losing two of their point guards - C.J. Walker and Jimmy Sotos - to injury in recent weeks. Sotos is out on Saturday, but Walker is going to try and play. His presence will give Ohio State a boost, even in limited minutes. Walker has been dealing with torn ligaments in his right hand all season and last played on January 3 against Minnesota. He’s averaging 8.7 points per game and is still the team’s leading assist man with 46 dishes, despite missing the last four games.

Duane Washington Jr. has become the picture of offensive efficiency lately and Tuesday against Purdue was no different. Washington shot 7-of-14 from the floor and made a career-high tying six 3-point field goals in the loss. In his last six games combined, he has averaged 17.7 points per contest on 35-for-78 shooting (44.9 percent) and a 22-of-46 clip from beyond the arc (47.8 percent). It seems that Washington’s early season shooting woes are behind him and his offensive production will be crucial in a tough stretch of games coming up.

Justice Sueing hasn’t cracked double-digit scoring in the past couple of games with nine and eight points, respectively, but he’s still made some memorable plays on both ends of the floor. Against Purdue, he had that incredible pass from his backside that led to a 3-pointer in transition and, later in the game, he raced back on defense to block a layup and force a miss. If Sueing can continue to impact the game in this manner, that’s good news for the Buckeyes. However, they wouldn’t mind a little extra offense, too, especially against a top-10 opponent in the Badgers.

If it weren’t for the amount of attempts he’s taken (only 62), Justin Ahrens would probably be the Big Ten’s best 3-point shooter at an even 50 percent. He stumbled a bit against Purdue, only shooting 3-of-9 from deep, but even with that performance, Ahrens is still shooting over 50 percent from the 3-point line in the past three games (10-for-19). Wisconsin owns the Big Ten’s top scoring defense, so having multiple scoring options like Ahrens around the floor can only help Ohio State.

Wisconsin Overview

The Badgers are one of three Big Ten teams in the top-10 for good reason and it starts with their defense. As already mentioned, Wisconsin is the best team in the Big Ten when it comes to pure scoring defense, only giving up 61.4 points per game. Combine that with the fact that opponents are being held to 39.8 percent from the floor, it’s no wonder why the Badgers have navigated the landmine that is the Big Ten Conference this season and have emerged with only two conference losses so far.

D’Mitrik Trice is one of the top point guards in the league and he can do it all. He’s averaging 14.8 points per game, can shoot it from the 3-point line and gets to the free-throw line. Price doesn’t turn the ball over either with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5-to-1, tied for sixth in the Big Ten. He’s a big reason why the Badgers are beating their opponents by almost 12 points a game.

Micah Potter is certainly a name Buckeye fans are familiar with from his time in Columbus. Potter's younger brother Noah is on the Buckeyes' football team as well. Micah gives Wisconsin options in the paint. He might not rank up there with some of the other bigs in the league (like Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn), but Potter holds his own at 12.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He has a step-out game, too, as he shoots over 40 percent from the 3-point line.

Tyler Wahl got plugged into the Badger starting lineup a few games ago and the sophomore forward hasn’t missed a beat. He scored a team- and career-high 14 points in the win over Northwestern as part of a balanced offensive attack. One stat sticks out, though, as Wahl is tied for second on the team with 14 steals, which speaks to his active hands on defense.

Ohio State Keys

  1. It’s a numbers game - Ohio State and Wisconsin both enter into their fourth top-25 matchup of the season with 3-1 records each. Clearly, neither team is intimidated by national rankings so fans can expect a bruising, traditional Big Ten game.
  2. Short memory - Not only do the Buckeyes have to forget about the loss to Purdue but also some of the numbers behind the boxscore. They got beat on the boards (-8) where they normally own a +4.3 advantage. They shot a season-worst 64.7 percent from the free-throw line and they only made six two-point shots total on the night. All three of these things will need to get fixed against Wisconsin.
  3. Buckle your seatbelts - Saturday begins a difficult stretch of Big Ten games for Ohio State with matchups against Michigan State and Iowa lurking in the shadows. Michigan State may be currently unranked, but the Spartans were ranked inside the top-5 earlier in the year. If the Buckeyes want to be one of the Big Ten’s best, that road begins with a big win on Saturday.

Matchup to Watch

Wisconsin’s Micah Potter vs. Ohio State’s Kyle Young - Potter has a few inches on Young but, for the most part, Young has been able to hang with the Big Ten’s best big men. This matchup on the inside will be no different. On the flip side, the Buckeyes are going to need to learn some lessons from Tuesday and make more of a concerted effort to feed the ball into the post to players like Young. Tuesday's game saw 35 3-pointers attempted from Ohio State and Chris Holtmann admitted postgame that was too many.

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