Breakdown: No.24 Ohio St at No.14 Wisconsin

In a game that has lost some of its luster over the past three weeks, No.24 Ohio State and No.14 Wisconsin - two limping teams - will face off for the only time this season at the Kohl Center. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.24 Ohio State (16-5, 3-5 Big Ten) at No.14 Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Saturday, February 1, 11 a.m. Central

Arena –Kohl Center (17,249)

Television -ESPN (Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Ohio State leads 85-67 (Wisconsin leads 46-31 in Madison)

Last Meeting - Ohio State won, 50-43, in the Big Ten Tournament finals on March 17, 2013 in Chicago

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 13.2 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 11.0 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 14.0 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 8.8 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 6.8 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 3.0 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.3 ppg)

Ohio State Probable Starters

3 Shannon Scott (6-1 Junior Guard, 7.5 ppg)

4 Aaron Craft (6-2 Senior Guard, 9.2 ppg)

10 LaQuinton Ross (6-8 Junior Forward, 14.2 ppg)

23 Amir Williams (6-11 Junior Center, 9.0 ppg)

32 Lenzelle Smith Jr. (6-4 Senior Guard, 12.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

2 Marc Loving (6-7 Freshman Forward, 6.2 ppg)

12 Sam Thompson (6-7 Junior Forward, 7.3 ppg)

33 Amedeo Della Valle (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 5.0 ppg)

55 Trey McDonald (6-8 Junior Center, 1.8 ppg)

Last Time Out

MADISON - No.14 Wisconsin shot a mind-boggling 26.3 percent in a 65-56 stunning loss to Northwestern at the Kohl Center Wednesday.

It's the fourth loss in five games, all against unranked teams, for Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4 Big Ten), which have stayed in freefall mode after starting off 16-0 and rose to No.3 in the national polls, things that seem like distant memories.

The problem during that losing streak was a lack of defense with teams killing the Badgers in the paint. It was the exact opposite in just Wisconsin's third two-game home losing streak in the Bo Ryan era.

Wisconsin's starters shot a combined 14-for-52 with Ben Brust (7-for-18), Traevon Jackson (2-for-12), and Sam Dekker (2-for-9) missing the most. It was so frustrating for some that Dekker was seen shooting jump shots on the floor 30 minutes after the final buzzer.

"Once you start missing, the basket gets pretty small," said Ryan. "And it obviously got pretty small."

Brust scored a team-high 21 points but missed 11 shots, including seven 3-pointers and was bemoaning himself for air balling a wide-open 3-point attempt from the top of the key. Brust wasn't alone, as UW failed to have a player shoot at least 50 percent for the first time all season.

"We got a lot of wide-open looks," said Brust. "I don't even know what to say. To throw the ball in the post and get a wide-open kickout and to air ball it is just ridiculous. That's just unacceptable. Just got to make shots. Just got to be a man, step up and knock them down."

UW had won the last seven meetings in the series by an average of 19.9 points per game, including a 76-49 decision on Jan.2, but Northwestern (11-11, 4-5) was the more aggressive, tougher team, something that the Wildcats had made an emphasis on since that game 27 days ago.

As a result, the Wildcats – which ranked last in the conference in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage - won for the first time at the Kohl Center and the first time in Madison in almost 18 years, when Dick Bennett was in his first season as head coach.

"Our identity is defense, no question," said Northwestern coach Chris Collins. "That's who we've become. We talk about it every day. To me in basketball, defense is the time when you're most united as a team. That's when you found out if your team is a together team because in order to play good defense, you need all five guys connected as one."

Using Collins' model, it's evident that Wisconsin failed in that regard, too, allowing the Wildcats to score the most points since January 9 and the most in a since December 16.

Thanks to missed free throws, sloppy turnovers and poor shot selection, Wisconsin made more free throws (21) than field goals (15) and never amounted much of a comeback after Northwestern went on a 25-7 run in the second half, erasing a six-point lead to build a 54-39 edge with 3:41 remaining.

The Wildcats were led by 30 points from Drew Crawford, who shot 10-for-15 from the floor and were one of the key components to salt the game away for the Wildcats. In the final 2:25, Northwestern made 11 of its final 14 free throws, including 6-for-8 from Crawford.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

CHICAGO - The improbable conference run finally ended for the University of Wisconsin.

After going toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the conference, let alone in the country, No.22 Wisconsin finally ran out of steam, as No.10 Ohio State used a late run to win its fourth tournament championship with a 50-41 victory Sunday afternoon.

Wisconsin (23-11) fell to 2-3 in title games, which includes a 66-49 setback to Ohio State the last time the Big Ten Tournament was held at the United Center.

After shooting about 50 percent for three straight halves in the conference tournament, the Badgers shot only 38.3 percent from the floor, including 16.7 percent (3-for-18) from 3-point range, and only Traevon Jackson (10 points) reached double figures for Wisconsin.

"Ohio State defensively is a tough team because they read and react and they help and recover," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "They are long and athletic. They made it difficult for us to get the looks that we always like to have. That's why they call it defense.

"How do you hold a team 1-for-16, like we did against them, from 3-point range? I thought we did an excellent job that way. We just needed to get a few more at the other end."

After each team won a decisive victory on its home court during the regular season, it was only fitting that neither team led by more than two points through the first 15:29 of the second half. That changed after Sam Dekker's reverse layup gave the Badgers a 41-39 lead with 7:03 remaining. That turned out to be the last field goal the Badgers made in the Windy City.

Watching Ohio State close the game on an 11-2 run, the Badgers final 10 possessions included 0-for-6 from the floor, 0-for-3 from 3-point range, two turnovers and one missed free throw on the front end of the bonus. The only points Wisconsin got was two free throws from Jackson.

With Wisconsin cold, Ohio State went on an 8-0 run that was punctuated by LaQuinton Ross scoring consecutive points in the paint. A day after UW's 30 points in the paint set up its win over Indiana, the Buckeyes held Wisconsin to only 22 points.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

? Wisconsin and Ohio State have split the last 12 meetings between the schools.

? UW head coach Bo Ryan is 15-10 against Ohio State, including a mark of 11-9 against Thad Matta. The Badgers are the only Big Ten team to own a winning record against the Buckeyes with Matta at the helm.

? Bo Ryan-led teams are 9-1 against Ohio State at the Kohl Center, with the only loss coming in 2012. Of the 10 Kohl Center match-ups, 7 have been decided by 6 points or less. UW won the other 3 contests by margins of 30 (2004), 22 (2009) and 22 (2013).

? Ohio State and UW met 3 times last season, with each team winning at home and the Buckeyes claiming the rubber match in the 2013 Big Ten Tournament Championship game.

? Wisconsin has held Ohio State to 60 or fewer points in each of the last 5 meetings.

? Bo Ryan (148-64, .698) and Thad Matta (114- 50, .695) own the 2nd and 3rd-ranked Big Ten win percentages of all time.

Including Saturday's game, either UW or OSU has been ranked in 19 of the last 20 meetings. This will also be the 8th time in the last 9 meetings that both teams enter the game ranked in the AP poll.

Wisconsin Notes

Under Ryan, Wisconsin has never finished lower than 4th in the Big Ten standings. UW's active streak of 12 consecutive seasons in the Big Ten's top 4 is the 2nd-longest in league history and the longest since Purdue had a run of 13 in a row 80 years ago.

During UW's streak of 13 straight winning seasons, every other Big Ten team has had multiple seasons with losing records, except Michigan St., who has finished .500 twice in that span. Among the 6 major conferences, only Kansas (23 seasons) has a longer active streak of finishing above .500 in league play.

Wisconsin's season-low 26.3% shooting vs. Northwestern was an anomaly this season. The Badgers have shot below 40% just three times TOTAL this season. In fact, UW won its other two games when shooting below 40%, winning at Virginia (16-5) and vs. Iowa (16-5).

The Badgers have lost back-to-back home games for just the 3rd time under Bo Ryan (also in 2009 and 2012). A Ryan-led team has never lost 3 straight at the Kohl Center.

Ohio State Notes

Senior Aaron Craft is the most experienced Buckeye in the Wisconsin series with seven games vs. the Badgers. He averages a team-high 7.7 points per game in 34.7 minutes a contest. Junior Sam Thompson is shooting 60 percent from the field (9-15) in five career games vs. Wisconsin.

Craft needs 12 field goals to reach 400 for his career and to become just the sixth Buckeye to record 400 career field goals and play 4,000 or more minutes.

Ohio State did not allow an opponent to reach 70 points this season over the first 15 games before No. 5 Michigan State reached 72 in an overtime win Jan. 7. The 15-game streak to start the season without an opponent scoring 70 or more points was the longest for Ohio State since a 22-game streak during the 2010-11 season.

After 20 games, Ohio State ranks No. 3 nation- ally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.269), No. 8 in scoring defense (58.9 ppg.), No. 13 in fewest fouls per game (15.8) and No. 15 in scoring margin (13.7 ppg.).

Prediction

A meeting that at one time looked to be a matchup between top 10, or even top 5 teams, has not been erased and rewritten as a matchup between two teams in a freefall. How times have changed between two programs that typically have a lot at stake when they play.

Ohio State's recent demise of losing five of six, including a bizarre home loss in overtime to Penn State Wednesday, is surprising considering the amount of raw talent Thad Matta gets and how suffocating the Buckeyes play defensively. Entering this weekend, Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring defense (58.9 points per game) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.9 percent).

The problem has been offense. Ohio State is ninth in the Big Ten in scoring (72.6), two spots behind Wisconsin.

"They haven't been as consistent putting the ball in the basket as they probably would like to be," said associate head coach Greg Gard. "We've each had our ups and downs and played exceptionally well at times."

In the same breath, however, Gard said the big challenge for the Badgers will be getting back to the way Wisconsin likes to play and its identity, which has been lost in the shuffle for most of the month of January.

"It's amazing that the teams that play hard usually get things to come their way and workout their way," said Gard. "A large majority of time the team that plays the hardest has more positive things happen to them. That's got to be the goal. We're going to have nights when the ball doesn't go in, but we have to find other ways to come out on the positive end of the game."

Ohio State's biggest test will be the Buckeyes' backcourt pressuring Wisconsin's guards, primarily Aaron Craft. A lot like Jordan Taylor was as a senior, Craft has had everything put on his plate and been responsible for helping the younger guards, like Shannon Scott, develop as the season has progressed.

"Craft is probably in the position of a playmaker, a creator and they are trying to make a lot of things happen, in addition to having him be great defensively," said Gard.

He's still one of the best defensive players in the conference despite being schemed against by opponents on the offensive end, and still makes life miserable for his defensive assignments. That makes Jackson's ball-handling performance critical. Since the first Northwestern game, Jackson has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1-to-1 (23-23), far from what UW is used to.

And against a guy like Craft, getting too dribble happy or too eager plays right into his hands of taking a charge or pinning a player against the sideline to force a mistake.

"All of our players in the backcourt need to do a better job of sharing the basketball, dispersing it, attacking, making the extra pass, moving the ball (not so much with the dribble all the time) and be more observant to guys that are open on the perimeter," said Gard. "We need to do a better job of making plays with our eyes up."

Jackson's funk has been well documented, but it's evident that he's the guy for now. Gard said Ryan chose to go with Jackson in the second half over Bronson Koenig was based on experience.

"We were out of sync and we're trying to get things going in the right direction, so you lean on experience to try to ride that wave a little bit harder than maybe you would with guys who don't have a lot of experience," said Gard. "When you are playing in those types of possession-for-possession games and claw your way back, each possession is extremely important and we want to play guys with experience in those areas to try and minimize some the mistakes."

Wisconsin was good enough to win on Wednesday because of its defense. Had the offense of the final five minutes shown up throughout the game, it would have been a different. UW has struggled in conference play putting together a complete 40 minutes and being the aggressive team, part of the reason why Dekker came out firing with the words he did Thursday: saying these losses are unacceptable.

I think Wisconsin wins on Saturday, I'll go with the Badgers by seven, but UW needs to win a bunch of these types of games to restore some faith and confidence in themselves and the program.

Worgull's Record: 15-6

Points off Prediction: 195 (9.3 per game)


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