No.16 Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) vs. Ohio State (15-13, 5-10 Big Ten)
Date/Time – Thursday, February 23, 8 p.m. central
Arena – Value City Arena Center (19,049)
Television – ESPN (Rece Davis and Dan Dakich)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Ohio State leads 86-70 (Ohio State leads 54-23 in Columbus)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 89-66, on January 14, 2017, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 8.0 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.6 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 14.7 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 13.3 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 7.1 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 5.7 ppg)
1 Brevin Pritzl (6-3 Freshman Guard, 2.3 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 4.0 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
In Wisconsin’s win over Maryland Sunday, Pritzl had career highs in minutes (23), points (7), rebounds (7), field goals (2), free throws attempted (5) and assists (1).
OHIO STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
1 Jae’Sean Tate (6-4 Junior Forward, 14.0 ppg)
2 Marc Loving (6-8 Senior Forward, 12.6 ppg)
3 C.J. Jackson (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 4.6 ppg)
15 Kam Williams (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.1 ppg)
32 Trevor Thompson (7-0 Junior Center, 10.7 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 Micah Potter (6-9 Freshman Center, 4.1 ppg)
13 JaQuan Lyle (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 11.0 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
After leading the Buckeyes with 14 points, while adding 10 rebounds, in the loss to Nebraska Saturday, Tate has now scored in double figures in 25 of the 28 games this season, including four double-doubles.
LAST TIME OUT
MADISON – Led by Hayes and Happ, No.11 Wisconsin broke out of a seemingly month-long shooting spell - which included 28 percent in the first half - with a big second half to run away from No.23 Maryland in a 71-60 victory at the Kohl Center.
Hayes’s double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Happ’s 20 points not only slammed the breaks on a two-game losing streak for Wisconsin, it moved the Badgers into a tie with Purdue at the top of the conference standings with four games to go.
After shooting 4-for-11 and scoring 16 points in the first half, Happ and Hayes shredded the Terrapins (22-5, 11-3) with 25 points (9-for-15) to help the Badgers shoot 51.5 percent and add a signature win to Wisconsin’s lackluster tournament resume.
“They were terrific,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We couldn’t guard them. We couldn’t double them. We couldn’t guard them head up. They were great.”
It was the kind of effort that could generate renewed hope in Wisconsin. The Badgers committed one turnover in the second half, made junior guard Melo Trimble work and shut down his other options and found a shooting touch that had been pretty much absent since late January by pounding the ball inside and averaging 1.42 points per possession.
The shooting – as the player’s forecasted – became contagious in the second half, especially between UW’s two main low post weapons. Happ scored 11 of his total on 5-for-7, only getting slowed down by foul trouble
Before he sat, he had his hands all over a 17-5 run to open the half that helped the Badgers take over the flow of the game. Happ had four of Wisconsin’s six paint buckets on that run, as well as hitting Bronson Koenig – making his return to the court after a one-game absence - for a 3-pointer that tied the score at 38.
Hayes scored 11 of his points the final 9:19 and did most of his damage from the free throw line. After not shooting a free throw in the six-point loss at Michigan Thursday, Hayes went 9-for-14 from the line. UW finished 21-for-37 from the line and drew 25 Maryland fouls in large part by attacking instead of fading away. Not only did that help UW get to the foul line, it helped the Badgers out rebound Maryland, 44-27, including 18-5 on the offensive glass.
Trimble led all scorers with 27 points and his ability to draw fouls ended up causing the Badgers to put five different players over the course of the first half, starting with lock-down defender Zak Showalter to Khali Iverson all the way down to UW’s reserve guards.
The result was Trimble going 1-for-4 from the floor with four turnovers in the first 17 minutes to hitting his last three shots – two from 3-point range – to help the Terps close the first half on a 6-0 run.
Trailing 53-44 with 8:43 remaining, Trimble scored straight points for the Terps on three possessions but the 82.8 percent free throw shooter missed the front end of the bonus twice. UW cashed them in and then some, as the Badgers’ 8-0 run put them up 12 with 4:41 remaining and seal the victory.
Wisconsin has won three straight against OSU, but the overall series has been close over the last decade (UW leads 9-7 since 2008).
UW is 14-10 (.583) against Thad Matta-led OSU teams, owning the best win percentage against Matta’s Buckeyes of any Big Ten team. Michigan State is next at 15-12 (.556) followed by Indiana at 9-12 (.429).
Wisconsin has held Ohio State under 70 points in 21 of 24 meeting since Matta took over. The Buckeyes are averaging just 60.3 ppg against the Badgers over than 24-game span.
Including Thursday's contest, at least one of the teams has been ranked in 22 of the last 24 meetings (dating back to 2005).
MADISON – Four days after one of its worst shooting performances of the season, No.18 Wisconsin found its rhythm again and delivered a bunch of haymakers, hitting 12 3-pointers in an 89-66 rout of reeling Ohio State at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers shot 49.3 percent by virtue of getting 42 points in the paint, a season-high 28 second-chance points and averaged 1.328 points per possession. Hitting from the perimeter didn’t hurt either. The Badgers hit 12 perimeter shots – from five different players – to put up their highest regulation point total against Ohio State (10-7, 0-4) since 1985.
Senior Bronson Koenig (game-high 21 points, 5-for-7 from 3-point range) gave the big lift from the perimeter, but the Badgers also got points from two struggling reserve players. Jordan Hill (eight points) hit his first two 3-pointers since Nov.17 (0-for-10) and Alex Illikainen – shooting just 7-for-24 this season – hit both of his 3-point attempts.
Ohio State ranked second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (39.0 percent) but the Badgers shot 56.3 percent in the second half.
Senior forwards and Ohio natives Nigel Hayes (15 points) and Vitto Brown (12) also regained their shooting stroke. The two were a combined 4-for-15 in the 66-55 loss at Purdue but went 12-for-21 Thursday.
Hayes scored 11 in the first half and Brown hit 3-pointers on the first two possessions of the second half to push Wisconsin’s lead to 26.
Throw in Ohio-native reserves Khalil Iverson and D’Mitrik Trice and the foursome combined for 37 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
The jump was evident early. Wisconsin averaged 1.444 points per possession over the first 13 minutes, getting production from seven different players and pounding the low post. A combination of Happ and Hayes, Wisconsin scored 18 of first 26 points in the lane, helping the Badgers open up an early 10-point window.
Being outrebounded by 12 against the Boilermakers, Wisconsin had 44 rebounds, was plus-13 on the glass and had 21 offensive rebounds – the most in a Big Ten game since at least 1996-97. UW had 14 offensive rebounds in the first half that led to 16 second-chance points and a 45-27 halftime lead.
The Badgers are sixth in the nation with a plus-8.4 rebounding margin.
UW is third in the Big Ten and 27th in the N.C.A.A. with just 11.3 turnovers per game.
Wisconsin is allowing 60.5 ppg, which leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally.
UW is averaging 20.7 FTAs per game during B1G play (third in the conference). The Badgers are 13-0 when attempting at least 20 FTs in a game.
OHIO STATE NOTES
Ohio State has held 26 of its 28 opponents to under 50 percent shooting from the field this season.
Ohio State is 13-3 this season when leading at half time and 15-3 this season when leading with five minutes left to play.
The Buckeyes are 3-5 in games decided by one or two points this season.
Thad Matta will become Ohio State's record holder for most games coached in a career when the game tips off vs. Wisconsin. His teams have played in 456 games to date (335-121).
Wisconsin heads into the first game of its final road trip of the season knowing it needs a win to keep pace with Purdue atop the Big Ten standings, as the Boilermakers slugged out an overtime win at Penn State Tuesday. Being on the road has been no problem for the Badgers, who are 8-4 this season and 54-20 (.730) in road/neutral games the past four seasons (the fourth-best win percentage in college hoops).
On the other side of the court, Ohio State is looking for anything it can hang its hat on. Guaranteed to finish below .500 in conference play after blowing a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds of a one-point home loss to Nebraska Saturday, a loss C.J. Jackson called “tragic” because of how it unfolded, the Buckeyes are 2-9 against RPI top 50 and are 3-3 in their last six home games.
“We’ve got to play smarter basketball,” Matta said. “We’ve got to play harder in what we’re doing. That’s been the focus. The one thing in college basketball that is good and bad, you can dwell on what’s happened but it’s how can we get ourselves ready for the next game. That’s where we’ve try to take this basketball team.”
Matta pointed out that his team has a problem with concentrating and focusing on the task at hand. Turning momentum back around in their favor has been an issue and believing in their abilities, which is where the Badgers will need to take advantage.
Wisconsin’s offense was on fire the last time the Buckeyes were on the schedule, and Bronson Koenig had a big part in that with 21 points and five 3-pointers. Koenig is expected to return to the starting lineup tonight after missing last Thursday’s loss and coming off the bench in Sunday’s win. If Koenig can recapture his shooting touch pre-injury, UW will be in good shape down the stretch.
The Badgers beat the Buckeyes with 55 percent 3-point shooting and scored 28 second-chance points off 21 offensive rebounds last month. Hitting 3-point shots can’t be completely controlled, but Wisconsin attacking the low post is necessary for the Badgers to succeed. That was evident in the second half Sunday, as UW’s ability to get to the rim and finish through contact helped them go 11-for-17 in the paint in the second half and shoot over 50 percent from the floor.
In a battle of two teams going different directions, expect Wisconsin to build off Sunday’s strong section half by attacking Ohio State in the post, sticking to its defensive principles to frustrate a fragile Buckeyes team and win by 11.
Worgull's Record: 24-3
Points off Prediction: 225 (8.3 per game)