Courtesy of Abigail Money-Waldo / The Daily Cardinal, University of Wisconsin
CHICAGO-Ohio State will play in the Big Ten tournament championship game after beating Michigan State Saturday evening, the likely high point of the Buckeyes’ season thus far. The low mark of the year came against Wisconsin Feb. 17, during a 71-49 drubbing by the Badgers in Madison.
OSU’s opponent for the conference title at the United Center in Chicago Sunday afternoon?
Wisconsin, which upset No. 1 seed Indiana, 68-56, before the Buckeyes and Spartans took the floor.
Since the defeat at the hands of the Badgers in the middle of February, OSU has rattled off seven-straight wins.
“Ever since we suffered that loss at Wisconsin, we’ve gone into every game with a business-type mindset. Every game is business. There’s no ‘He-he, ha-ha,'” said redshirt senior forward Evan Ravenel.
Sunday, the Buckeyes will look to hand the Badgers a spoonful of revenge for the embarrassing loss they suffered that Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center. OSU is a much improved team since that Feb. 17 contest. So, though, are the Badgers.
“We’re a better basketball team than the last time we played them, but unfortunately, so are they. I think Wisconsin is playing at a very high level right now,” said OSU coach Thad Matta.
OSU players attribute their success since that rout to them coming together as a complete unit. Everyone is contributing on both ends of the floor, they say.
“We kind of came together as a team and said, ‘We can’t rely on just one guy to play offense or one guy to play defense,'” said junior guard Aaron Craft, who scored 20 points in the Buckeyes’ 61-58 defeat of the Spartans Saturday.
Wisconsin has been playing cohesively as well. The Badgers had four players in double figures against the Hoosiers and shot 51 percent from the floor. Wisconsin has won five of its seven games since its beatdown of OSU at home.
Sunday’s contest will almost assuredly look very different than the two team’s last matchup.
“We’re two totally different teams,” said junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. “Now that we get another crack at them, it’s game on.”
Analyzing the opponent
Record: 23-10, 14-6 Big Ten
Against OSU in the regular season: 1-1
Jan. 29, OSU 58, Wisconsin 49, in Columbus
Feb. 17, Wisconsin 71, OSU 49 in Madison
Matchup to watch: OSU’s perimeter defense vs. Wisconsin’s outside shooting
OSU hangs its defensive hat on the heads of Craft and sophomore guard Shannon Scott, who routinely disrupt opponents’ guard play. Wisconsin relies heavily on the three ball. In their win against Indiana Saturday, the Badgers made seven threes. In their shellacking of the Buckeyes on Feb. 17, Wisconsin totaled seven makes from deep. If Craft and Scott can hold Wisconsin’s guards in check, limiting the Badgers’ looks from behind the line, OSU would be in good shape.
OSU and Wisconsin are set to tip-off at 3:30 p.m. from the United Center in Chicago Sunday. OSU is playing for its fourth Big Ten tournament title under Matta.