Buckeyes Face Tall Task At No. 17 Wisconsin

After a week off, Ohio State begins a stretch with four of its next five games on the road. That string begins Saturday at Wisconsin (7 p.m., ESPN), which defeated OSU 69-57 in Columbus. According to OSU's Terence Dials, the key will be containing UW's Devin Harris.

The OSU men's basketball team figures to have its work cut out for itself Saturday when it visits No. 17 Wisconsin (7 p.m., ESPN).

This is the same Wisconsin team that came into Value City Arena Jan. 28 and walked away with an easy 69-57 victory. The Badgers (16-4, 7-2) led by as many as 20 points in the second half before OSU scored the last seven points to trim the final margin.

"Even though to some that was a lopsided defeat, we still played pretty well for 34 minutes," said OSU coach Jim O'Brien. "The last minute-and-a-half of the first half and the first three or four minutes of the second half hurt us. But for the balance of the game, I thought we played pretty well against them. That was a prime example of having to play for the full 40 minutes."

Sure enough, OSU trailed just 31-27 late in the first half before the Badgers reeled off six unanswered points to end the frame and go up 37-27 at halftime. Then, Wisconsin went on a 12-2 run to open the second half and grab a 49-29 lead.

Wisconsin guard Devin Harris made 5 of 7 three-pointers and hit 9 of 12 shots from the floor in blistering OSU for 29 points in that win.

"He is arguably the best player in the league and one of the premier guards in the country," O'Brien said. "He had his way with us the first time. We know we have to do something to keep him under control."

Harris leads all Wisconsin scorers with 18.5 points a game. He also has made the most 3-pointers (39), field goals (109) and foul shots (112) for the Badgers. Forward Mike Wilkinson also averages double digits with 11.8 points a game. He is the team's leading rebounder with 6.9 caroms per outing.

If OSU can find a way to contain Harris, they may have a chance. No other UW player was in double digits in the first meeting.

"Harris had 29 against us," said OSU forward Terence Dials. "We know we have to stop him. If we can stop him, we can stop their offense."

Wisconsin's lone league losses were a two-point setback (53-51) at Purdue and a 69-51 loss at Northwestern. The Badgers were 9-2 in nonconference action with losses at Maryland in overtime and at Alabama.

The Badgers hold a half-game lead over Michigan State and Illinois, each 7-3 in conference play, in the Big Ten race.

Although OSU dropped to 11-11 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play with an 84-70 loss to Michigan State last Saturday, the Buckeyes believe they can still make some noise in the conference race.

"We feel if we play our best ball, we can play with anybody in this league," Dials said. "The league from top to bottom is pretty even. We just have to keep our confidence and play hard."

O'Brien said, "The thing we've talked about is we still think there is nobody in this league we can't beat. But you can't go in and play haphazardly or for just 25 minutes and expect to do it. If we play our best game, we feel we can still win a lot of these games.

"We're just trying to get better. We worked hard on our offense. Every day for us, we're just trying to be a better team."

In the first meeting with UW, J.J. Sullinger was the only OSU player in double figures with 14 points. The Buckeyes shot 40 percent from the floor (20 of 50) in that game, including 22.2 percent (2 of 9) on three-pointers.

Against Michigan State, the Buckeyes allowed the Spartans to shoot 81 percent from the floor in the first half and 73.3 percent for the game. That was the third highest shooting percentage by a team in a Big Ten game in history.

"Clearly, we could have guarded them better," O'Brien said. "But they were uncanny in their ability to make shots."

OSU is 19-6 under O'Brien when they have had a full week to prepare.

"I think we've had four pretty good practices since that game," O'Brien said. "We have really been focused on Wisconsin. Hopefully, we bring something into this game. We know it will be hard because they are so good at home."

Also Notable

* This is the first of a five-game stretch where OSU will play four road games. OSU returns home Wednesday to host Iowa before visiting Indiana (Feb. 21), Minnesota (Feb. 25) and Michigan (Feb. 29).

* Junior guard Tony Stockman needs four points to reach 1,000 for his college career. A transfer from Clemson, Stockman scored 716 during his two years with the Tigers. He has 280 points as a Buckeye for a career total of 996 (12.5 ppg.). He also needs just one assist to reach 200 for his career. Against Michigan State, Stockman knocked down five 3-pointers to push his career total over the 200 (204) mark.

* Senior Velimir Radinovic is No. 1 in the Big Ten in field goal shooting percentage, knocking down 65.5 percent of his shots (76-116). He has made 56 percent of his shots for his career (232-413) in 103 games. He has made 34-of-53 (.642) shots in Big Ten play this season.

* Stockman leads Ohio State with an average of 13.3 points a game, increasing his season scoring average following the 18 points scored against Michigan State last week. He has connected on 85 percent of his foul shots (35-41). With a total of 45 steals, Stockman is among Big Ten leaders (3rd) with an average of 2.14 thefts a game. Sullinger and Dials average 10.0 points a game. Stockman is the leading scorer for OSU against Big Ten foes with an average of 12.1 ppg. Dials is next with 11.8. Radinovic is third with 11. 3 ppg. Dials is the overall team leader in rebounding with an average of 6.7 boards a contest. Radinovic tops the Buckeyes in league games with 6.8 rebounds a game.


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