Another Showdown with Number One

Wisconsin has already ruined one Ohio State team's perfect season this year. How can they do it again on Saturday?

MADISON – When Badger fans think of a top-ranked Ohio State team coming to town, a basketball game might not be the first image that pops into their heads.

More likely, they'll picture a packed Camp Randall Stadium last October, and David Gilreath running through a gaping hole on the left side to take the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Camp Randall never rocked harder than after the Badgers knocked off No.1 Ohio State, 31-13, clearing a path that allowed UW to win its first Big Ten title since 1999.

Will the Kohl Center's foundation be equal to the challenge on Saturday?

Wisconsin basketball has enjoyed plenty of success under coach Bo Ryan, posting the best winning percentage in the conference (.714) since the start of the 2001-02 season, including a record of 12-6 against Ohio State. The one thing Wisconsin (18-5, 8-3 Big Ten) hasn't done with great success is beat the nation's best, which this year means the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin is 0-6 under Ryan against teams ranked No.1 in either the AP or coaches poll, with two of those losses coming to the Buckeyes in 2007. All time, Wisconsin is 1-18 against the top-ranked team in the AP poll, having lost the last 15 games. That one win draws slight parallels to Saturday – it was an 86-67 victory in 1962 over an Ohio State team that had won its first 22 games of the season.

Considering that this Ohio State team (24-0, 11-0) doesn't have Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek and hasn't won its last 47 regular season games like that '62 team did, these Badgers have a legitimate chance to upend Ohio State if they can master these three keys to victory.

SULLINGER AND THE SENIORS

It sounds like a Motown singing group, but no artists have ever dished out as many hits as the Buckeyes have this year, thanks to three solid seniors and the freshman of the year.

Jon Diebler is Ohio State's all-time leading 3-point shooter, Dallas Lauderdale ranks in the top three in the program's history in blocked shots and David Lighty has been a part of a school-record 119 wins. Then there's freshman Jared Sullinger, who leads the Buckeyes with 18 points and 10.3 rebounds a game.

Combine all those factors and it's easy to see why Ohio State leads the nation in scoring margin (20.0 ppg) and fewest fouls per game (14.3), ranks second in turnover margin (+5.7) and is fourth in field goal percentage (.496) and in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.56).

However, Wisconsin also has relied on its seniors for success, primarily the production of preseason all-Big Ten selection Jon Leuer (19.4 ppg), a forward who has scored 20 or more points at home 10 times this season. If Keaton Nankivil (9.6 ppg) and Tim Jarmusz (4.2 ppg) can add some production in addition to corralling Sullinger, the Badgers will be in good shape.

WINNING UGLY

Ohio State is No. 7 in the nation in scoring defense (57.3 ppg), No. 10 in fewest turnovers per game (10.9) and knows how to grind out a victory. But the Badgers won't be intimidated by that.

If the last week has told us anything about Wisconsin, it's that the Badgers can win in a variety of ways. Last Sunday, Wisconsin set a season-high for 3-point percentage by converting on 64.7 percent (11-of-17) and shot 59 percent from the field in a 26-point dismantling of Michigan State. Three days later, UW shot a frustrating 18.2 percent (6-for-33) from the field in the first half, but rallied to shoot 51.4 percent (18-for-35) in the second half and overtime in a win over Iowa.

"Stuff really didn't go our way right away, and they made things tough on us," sophomore Mike Bruesewitz said. "When it came down to it, Jordan Taylor hit a tough shot to get us to overtime and Tim hit a big three for us. It was a scratching, physical game, but we had guys step up at the right time."

HOME COOKING

Ohio State has won its last 12 true road games, but only eight teams have walked out of Madison with a win in the last 10 years. Ryan has built the Kohl Center into a fortress, going 149-11 (.931) at home in his tenure, the fourth-best record in the nation during that time frame.

Dating back to last season, the Badgers have won 16 consecutive home games and 34 of their last 35. During Wisconsin's current home win streak it has outscored opponents by 327 points, an average of 20.4 points per game.

Last season, the Badgers ended Purdue's undefeated season and Michigan State's 9-0 conference start in a span of a month. Now, facing an Ohio State team that won its four January road games by a combined 15 points and hasn't won in Madison since 2000, home court could be a big advantage.

"A lot of (the success) is fan support, a lot of it is comfort," Nankivil said. "We practice here every day. We use the facilities all summer and you just get used to a place like this. It's like any away game that we play. You come into a place where people have a little edge on you in terms of comfort. We always try to use that to our advantage."

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