After Evan Turner grabbed his team's lone second-half offensive rebound against Wisconsin at the tail end of the game earlier this season and converted the basket to put his team ahead 48-47 with 3:12 remaining, the Badgers drew the dagger thanks to a key rebound grabbed by freshman guard Jordan Taylor.
Taylor corralled Jason Bohannon's miss from three-point range, and 34 seconds later – right before the shot clock buzzer sounded – senior Joe Krabbenhoft buried his three-point attempt, giving the Badgers a 50-48 lead with 2:06 remaining that they would not relinquish.
Now the two teams rematch in a quarterfinal matchup in the Big Ten Tournament, and the Ohio State coaches are preaching one stat in particular to their players: in the lone meeting between the two teams this season, the Badgers dominated the offensive glass to the tune of a 15-3 margin.
That, coupled with 19 OSU turnovers, helped pave the way to a Badger victory.
"(Head coach Thad Matta) said we gave them (15) offensive boards," OSU guard Jon Diebler said. "If we were playing one-on-one, that's like handing them the ball 15 times and saying ‘I'll guard you for the first 15 possessions.' No one likes to do that and I think we've taken that to heart this week in practice."
What remains to be seen is if the Buckeyes can turn around an area of their game that has been a problem all year. In Big Ten play, OSU finished dead last with an average of 7.17 rebounds per game. On average, the Buckeyes were out-rebounded by an average of 1.7 boards per game.
Beating a team like Wisconsin that takes such good care of the ball – the Badgers committed a Big Ten-fewest 168 turnovers in conference play – requires what OSU swingman Evan Turner described as a near-perfect effort.
In this case, the Buckeyes might want to start with their ability to attack the offensive glass.
"Every single time they start off with 35 seconds and probably aren't going to shoot until five seconds (remain)," Turner said. "It could've been a big game-changer. They got a lot of points off of offensive rebounds. We've got to take that away and get more possessions."
Asked how the Buckeyes could hope to turn that statistic around, Turner cited toughness as the key factor.
"When I play defense for 20 straight seconds and not finish off the play, it's a toughness thing, a focus thing," Turner said. "That can be fixed. We've seen our errors before. It's like studying for a test."
The disparity in rebounding was hammered home by how well the Buckeyes shot the ball against the Badgers. In the loss, OSU shot 21 for 38 (55.3 percent) from the floor. The Badgers, playing at home, shot just 36.4 percent but had 17 more shots from the field (20 for 55).
Matta said he felt the Buckeyes did a better job of rebounding the basketball in the second half of the season following the loss at Wisconsin. In the final six games of the regular season, OSU out-rebounded its opponents four times while going 3-3 in that stretch.
"I think the big thing is finishing out the play; (Wisconsin) sent three sometimes four guys and went smash-mouth and we got pushed underneath the basket," Matta said. "I think we've just got to do a better job of knowing where they're coming from. We picked up on that during the game and tried to correct that but obviously not the one we needed at the end."
That physical mentality Matta mentioned is no stranger to games between these two teams. The last six times they have faced off, the final margin has been decided by five points or less five times. In those six games, both teams have scored more than 70 points once.
As Diebler put it, the team that wins on both the glass and the scoreboard will be the aggressor. Last time, that team was Wisconsin and it showed.
"I think it just comes down to toughness," Diebler said. "You have to want it. You can do all the drills you want, but you can't simulate what's going to happen in the game. We have to come out and be the tougher team.
"This time around we have to be the aggressor because we know what they're going to do. We have to be aggressive on offense and rebound."