When: Saturday, Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Site: Gund Arena (20,500), Cleveland, Ohio
Broadcasts: Wisconsin Radio Network
Series Notes: UW leads all-time series 8-2
After four straight home victories, No. 15 Wisconsin tests the road again, taking on Ohio as part of the Rock-n-Roll Shoot Out.
Coach Bo Ryan's Badgers are returning to action Saturday after a week off since their solid 63-59 win over state-rival No. 23 Marquette. Wisconsin's win marked the third-straight in-state competitor the Badgers had knocked off at the Kohl Center this season.
The UW victory also marked the return of sophomore forward Alando Tucker to the starting lineup. Tucker provided a major impact in his first start of the season as he tallied a season-high 17 points on 5 of 10 shooting and 7 of 11 from the free throw line. Also playing big for UW were junior guard Devin Harris, who poured in 15 points and dished out five assists, and junior forward Mike Wilkinson, who pitched in nine points and 10 rebounds.
As important as Tucker's play was to UW's victory, it was their tenacious defense, which forced 14 turnovers, including 11 in the first half, that proved to be the deciding factor.
Next up are the Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference. Although technically on neutral grounds, the Bobcats enter the game with a clear home-court advantage.
Coach Tim O'Shea's group enters the game off a very nice road victory Saturday versus Navy. With an 11-0 run in the closing minutes of the contest, the Bobcats won 63-52. Leading the way for Ohio, as he has all season, was senior guard Jaivon Harris with 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Junior guard Diamond Gladney also scored 12 points in the win in his first start of the season.
For a team that seems to have trouble finding scorers night in and night out, it is Harris who also happens to be the only Bobcat averaging double-digit points per game (12.0).
Saturday will mark 11th matchup between the two schools—the Badgers have won the last six in a row.
Three Keys for Wisconsin:
1. Turnovers – The biggest key to UW's win over Marquette had to be turnovers as they forced 14 Golden Eagle cough-ups in comparison to their own seven. Pressuring the opponent into mistakes will continue to be the bread and butter of this UW team this season, which owns a plus-58 in turnover margin this season.
2. Converting opportunities – The Badgers came out in the last game firing three pointers from all spots on the court, but largely failing to connect, one of the biggest reasons why they fell behind early.
3. Free Throw contest – Just like a season ago, the Badgers are on pace to make more free throws than their opponents attempt. With such a good free throw shooting team, the Badgers continue to put teams away with their smart play on defense and their aggressive play on offense.
Three Keys for Ohio:
1. Passing the Rock – The Bobcats are one of the worst in the MAC in the assist department (just 94 in nine games). Passing the ball and breaking the defense will be a way to get easy shots and easy points.
2. Free throws – It's not often that a UW opponent can match them from the charity stripe but Ohio definitely may do just that. Shooting 75 percent from the free throw line this season, the Bobcats have the potential to out-duel the Badgers from the line—if they can find a way to reach it.
3. Shots in the foot – Turnovers are the epitome of shooting one's self in the foot and that's exactly what the Bobcats are continuing to do this season, averaging nearly twice as many turnovers per game as the Badgers (16 to 8.75). The 'Cats must keep their miscues to a minimum to play with one of the Big Ten's best.