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Buckeyes fall victim to Kohl Center’s hostile environment

Wisconsin’s Kohl Center is a notoriously tough place to play for road opponents. Ohio State knows this more than anyone.

After a 71-67 loss to the Badgers Saturday afternoon, the Buckeyes have lost nine straight in Wisconsin’s arena.

In a press conference Friday, coach Thad Matta said OSU’s lack of success in Madison, Wis., bothers him.

“You always remember the losses more than you remember the wins,” he said. “It is what it is, and you just look at the challenge ahead.”

Matta recalled a couple of especially painful games, losing at Wisconsin, 72-66, his first year at OSU, and losing last year, 65-43, as the No. 15-ranked team in the nation.

After the undefeated Buckeyes led by 15 with 13 minutes left in the game, this loss is likely to be right up there.

Fifth-year senior forward David Lighty said the Kohl Center is one of the most challenging road venues in the Big Ten.

“It’s home court for them and no one likes to lose at home,” he said at Friday’s press conference. “They don’t lose too much at home.”

Saturday’s victory for Bo Ryan’s club makes the Badgers 150-11 at home in Ryan’s 10 seasons there. During his tenure, his squad has the fourth-highest home-winning percentage in the country, behind Kansas, Duke and Utah State.

Under Ryan, Badger basketball is synonymous with a slow-tempo, defense-oriented game. Matta said that in the past, he’s joked with Ryan about the style of play.

“A couple years ago, we were getting ready to play them in the Big Ten Tournament, and I ran into him,” Matta said. “I said, ‘Bo, we’re both in the NCAA Tournament. This doesn’t matter; let’s just not let anyone play defense, and see if we both can’t score 100.'”

In reality, Ryan’s squads rarely allow opponents to score more than 70, especially at home. The Badgers have surrendered fewer than 70 points for 38 straight home games, the longest current streak in the country. OSU is second, with 37 straight.

Adding to the difficulty in scoring against Wisconsin is the Badgers’ ability to hold onto the ball on the offensive end, and not allow transition baskets, said senior guard Jon Diebler.

“Obviously we like to get out and run a lot,” Diebler said at Friday’s press conference. “When you play a team where you don’t get a steal and get an easy layup, it’s hard to pick up the tempo.”

With their 15-0 second-half run to tie the game, the Badgers ignited the crowd and their student section, nicknamed the “Grateful Red.”

Lighty, who hasn’t won in Madison, said Wisconsin’s students are one of the most difficult aspects of playing at the Kohl Center.

“Especially when they’re feeling good and making shots, it gets loud in there,” he said. “It’s an environment suited for college basketball.”

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