Ohio State has had a rough start to Big Ten play so far this season, losing their first three conference games. The latest setback for the Buckeyes came on Sunday night, when they fell to Minnesota 78-68 in Minneapolis. Thad Matta’s team fell behind by 18 points early on, and while the Buckeyes were able to cut Minnesota’s lead to just three points with four minutes to go in the second half, the early hole Ohio State dug themselves was just too deep for the Buckeyes to climb out of.
While Jae’Sean Tate and Trevor Thompson did their best to try and lead Ohio State to the comeback victory, the Buckeyes just didn’t have enough horses to earn their first conference win this year. With Keita Bates-Diop being ruled out for the rest of the season, the Buckeyes received very little production from their bench. Only eight Ohio State players ended up seeing playing time on Sunday night, with the eight bench points from the Buckeyes being their lowest output so far this season.
Jae’Sean Tate nearly recorded another double-double on Sunday night, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds. It wasn’t all good for Tate though, as he ended up recording seven turnovers before fouling out after 35 minutes on the court. Trevor Thompson also had a big game in the loss, finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Not only was it Thompson’s fifth double-double of the year, but it was the second time he has recorded at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in a game this season.
Ohio State will have their work cut out for them if they want to topple the 18th-ranked Badgers. Ohio State is 86-69 against Wisconsin all-time, but the Badgers are 45-29 against the Buckeyes in Madison. Thad Matta’s teams have struggled mightily at the Kohl Center, posting a 2-8 record in Madison against Wisconsin. The last meeting between these two schools came last year in early February, with Wisconsin earning a 79-68 win at home. JaQuan Lyle scored 27 points in the game, but didn’t get much help, as Kam Williams was the only other Buckeye in double figures, scoring 10 points off the bench. Next month the Badgers will travel to Columbus, taking on Ohio State on February 23rd at Value City Arena.
Wisconsin just saw their nine-game winning streak snapped on Sunday afternoon, when they fell 66-55 to Purdue in West Lafayette. The Badgers were ice cold from long range, hitting just two of the 14 three-pointers they attempted. The Wisconsin defense was active, forcing Purdue into 18 turnovers, but the Badgers weren’t able to make the most of the sloppy play of the Boilermakers. Along with Sunday’s loss to Purdue, the other two losses for the Badgers came at the hands of Creighton and North Carolina in non-conference play.
Following Sunday’s loss, Wisconsin will be happy to return to Madison, where they have won 15 straight games. Since opening the building in 1998, Wisconsin is 268-39 at the Kohl Center, with their .873 winning percentage at home being the fourth-best among active arenas in the country. The last time Wisconsin lost at home was just over a year ago when Maryland squeaked by the Badgers 63-60. Ohio State’s last win in Madison came in 2014, when the Buckeyes won 59-58.
Numbers to know
Marc Loving continues to work his way up the Ohio State scoring list, with his 1,130 career points currently ranking 39th in school history. If Loving is able to hit his season average in scoring, he will pass Jamaal Brown’s 1,139 points for 38th place in school history. With a big performance tonight against the Badgers, Loving might be able to inch up another spot on the list, as Frank Howard currently sits in 37th place with 1,147 career points.
In recent history Ohio State has struggled to score against Wisconsin, failing to score at least 60 points in six of the last eight meetings. The only time during that stretch in which Ohio State was able to score more than 60 points against the Badgers came in the most recent meeting, with Ohio State scoring 68 points in the loss. Just three times in 23 games against Wisconsin since Thad Matta has been at Ohio State have the Buckeyes reached 70 points.
Wisconsin has finished with a winning season and in the top four of the Big Ten standings in each of the last 16 seasons, which is the longest streak in Big Ten history. Last year it looked like that streak might come to an end after the Badgers started Big Ten play 1-4, but Wisconsin responded by winning 11 of their last 12 regular season conference games.
Cast of characters
If Ohio State has designs on upsetting the Badgers, they are going to need the sophomore guard to play like he did last year against Wisconsin, where he scored 27 points. Lyle scored 12 points and had six assists last time out against Minnesota. The sophomore has had moments of inconsistency throughout the season, but Ohio State will need more from Lyle, especially with the recent loss of Keita Bates-Diop.
Thompson hit a milestone on Sunday night when he was credited with the 100th blocked shot of his career. Since being inserted into the starting lineup for the game against Youngstown State, Thompson has reached double figures in scoring in four of his five starts. Not only will the Buckeyes need Thompson to be active on the offensive end, but they’ll also need a lot from him on the defensive end, as Wisconsin comes into tonight’s matchup with a +10.9 rebounding margin, which is fifth-best in the country.
The senior is the only active player who has scored 1,500 points, grabbed 600 rebounds, and dished out 200 assists in his career. The forward has scored 1,556 points in a Wisconsin uniform, which ranks sixth in school history. Hayes has a knack for getting to the foul line, going to the free throw stripe at least 164 times in each of his first three seasons with the Badgers. Hayes will probably reach that number again this year, as he has already attempted 91 free throws.
Koening started off the season hot, and while he has seen his scoring trail off lately, he still is Wisconsin’s leading scorer this year, averaging 14 points per game. The senior guard reached double figures in 10 of his first 11 games, but has only done so in one of his last five games. That doesn’t mean that Koening isn’t dangerous, as he has hit 28 of his 55 three-point attempts over his past nine games, including hitting all five of his shots from long range in the win against Indiana last week.
How to watch
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM