The No. 19 Buckeyes (12-2, 2-2 Big Ten) will host conference leader Wisconsin on Wednesday at Value City Arena (8:30 p.m., ESPN2). If recent history is any indicator, it will likely be a defensive-minded, low-scoring game between the two schools.
The No. 15 Badgers (14-2, 4-0 Big Ten) have won the last five meetings with OSU, and eight of the last 10. Wisconsin beat OSU three times last year: 72-66 at Madison, 64-56 in Columbus, and 60-49 at the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.
Wisconsin is led by 6-5 junior guard Alando Tucker, who leads the Badgers with 19.0 points a game.
"They're a great team," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "They've got a great player in Tucker and we know how Taylor can score. Their size is tremendous. They have a great feel for how to play and it will be a great challenge for us."
Tucker has been a thorn in OSU's side during his first two years in college.
"He's a guy that can go inside, or outside," Matta said. "He's physical, strong, he's tough, gets to the foul line. They really utilize him well with the post isos. Just one of the best players in the Big Ten."
It's a matchup of two of the brightest coaches in the Big Ten. Matta is the up-and-comer, and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan has done a fine job in Madison.
"He has a system he's coached for 20-plus years," Matta said. "He makes changes, but not wholesale changes. He really does a terrific job with that program."
Ohio State center Terence Dials (6-9, Sr.) has stepped up his play over the last month and leads the Buckeyes in scoring (14.9) and rebounding (7.6). When Dials stays out of foul trouble, he is among the top players in the conference.
Guard Je'Kel Foster (6-3, Sr.) had his first poor shooting performance of the season against Michigan State. He's averaging 14.6 points, and is shooting 57 percent from the floor, and 49 percent from 3-point range.
Guard Ron Lewis (6-4, Jr.) continues to be a valuable sixth-man for OSU. He averages 12.6 points.
Senior forward J.J. Sullinger (6-5, Sr.) makes it four Buckeyes averaging in double figures (10.2 points). He's also second on the team with 7.1 rebounds per game.
And the improved play of point guard Jamar Butler (6-2, So.) deserves mention. He is averaging 8.8 points, a team-best 5.1 assists and owns an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.7/1. The former Ohio Mr. Basketball is also shooting 46 percent from 3-point range.
Matta, known for his positive outlook, doesn't think his team will have a letdown after the draining loss to the Spartans.
"We can't be down; we can't dwell on it," he said. "We have to come back and play again. You're playing a team that had the team we just lost to down by 20. So, it's one of those games where we have to come out and meet the next challenge. And that's being a college athlete. That's what you have to deal with and we can't dwell on what happened in the past. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get ready to go again."
Matta was happy with the way his team competed against the Spartans. Too many times in the past, Michigan State teams out-toughed Ohio State. But that was not the case on Sunday. The shots were not falling, and MSU's defense gets some credit for it.
"Well, I loved our effort," Matta said. "I thought we competed; I thought we executed. The shooting… you know, if we could have made a few more shots that would have helped us. But when you take a team like Michigan State and hold them scoreless when your backs are against the wall for 10 minutes, I've got no problem with the effort. I thought our guys competed."
A reporter informed Matta about a comment Ryan made earlier in the week. The Wisconsin coach said he's nervous to play OSU because he doesn't think the Buckeyes will shoot poorly two games in a row.
"I hope he's right," Matta said. "Here's my thing: I could shoot the ball a little bit as a player and I was telling guys during the game Sunday: ‘Keep shooting.' I've got no problems with the shots and hopefully they go in for us.
"We've made them. Sunday was just a situation where we had some good ones and they didn't go down for us. I felt bad for Je'Kel. He had three of them in and out. But it's all a part of it. We had some lay-ups that we missed as well. It's who we are. Hopefully we don't shoot as bad as we did."
Foster, the emotional leader of the Buckeyes, took a hard spill in the Michigan State game. Although he was called for a foul, it was a good example of his toughness. He came back for the ball, knowing he was going to take a hit.
Matta says Foster is feeling well physically.
"He's good; he's good," Matta said.
Ohio State and Wisconsin are 3-3 at games played at Value City Arena. The Badgers have won the last three.
The game is expected to be OSU's second sellout of the season.
"Our fans have been great to us and we will need them again (Wednesday)," Matta said.