The Ohio State Buckeyes are having one of their worst seasons under Thad Matta. The Buckeyes sit at 15-13 on the season, and are going to finish the season with a losing record in the Big Ten. That’s never happened in Matta’s tenure.
The Buckeyes are currently on a three-game skid, with losses at Maryland, Michigan State, and at home against Nebraska in what was an absolute nail-biter. This is what Ohio State basketball has become over the past couple of seasons, but every program has that lost period at one point or another. This just so happens to be Ohio State’s.
The Buckeyes are facing a Wisconsin team on Wednesday night that beat the brakes off of them in the middle of January. Ohio State lost an 89-66 contest in Madison, which to be fair, is one of the harder places to win at in the country.
The Badgers come into this one having lost two of their last three games, with losses coming at home against Northwestern and on the road against Michigan. The last game they played was a home victory over No. 23 Maryland, 71-60. Melo Trimble put up 27 points for the Terps, but thanks to a combined 41 points from Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ, the Badgers were able to hold their own at home.
Wisconsin has handled the Buckeyes easily in the last three games in which they’ve faced each other. The Badgers are averaging a margin of victory of 19.3 points. In their first meeting this season, Wisconsin shot lights out from deep, and outscored the Bucks 42-22 in the paint. If Ohio State hopes to upset Wisconsin, it’s going to need a performance they haven’t put together against the Badgers in quite some time.
Numbers to know
That’s how many second chance points Wisconsin had in their last matchup against Ohio State. If Ohio State wants to upset the Badgers, that can’t happen on Wednesday night. Trevor Thompson has played some good basketball lately, but even his game will have to step up in order for Ohio State to even compete.
Ohio State has 11 home losses dating back to last season. Attendance is averaging 12,182 fans, which is a low for Value City Arena. The home court advantage isn’t there for Ohio State, which is something that you need when facing a tough Wisconsin team.
Trevor Thompson is averaging 1.6 blocks per game. He’s going to be the tallest player on the floor Wednesday night, and they’re going to need him to pick up the effort defensively in trying to stop Ethan Happ, who has been great for Wisconsin underneath the basket all season. Happ is one of the most efficient players in college basketball, so it won’t be an easy task by any means for Thompson.
Cast of characters
Loving has had good nights scoring the basketball lately. In two of the Buckeyes’ past three games, he’s scored at least 22 points, but hasn’t gotten too much help around him. Despite this, he’s still been great about getting open looks, and shooting the ball with a confidence we haven’t seen before. It could absolutely have something to do with him being a senior, or perhaps Matta has told him to fire away. Regardless, he’s been fun to watch, and the Bucks will need a big night from him Wednesday.
Tate’s been one of the more consistent scorers throughout the season. In a game against Wisconsin, ideally Ohio State would have some additional scoring happen in places they normally don’t get a large volume, but that’s not likely to happen. Bring in Tate, who has put up some 20-point games this season. If he can piece together one of those, while still crashing the glass and bringing life to the Buckeyes, we’ll all be happy with his effort. He brings it every night, but this is going to be one evening where Thad Matta is going to need him to fill the stats sheet.
If Ethan Happ isn’t playing well, things typically don’t go well for Wisconsin. Luckily, they’ve got Nigel Hayes, who is an entirely different problem for teams facing Wisconsin to deal with. In their win over Maryland a few days ago, Hayes carried the team to victory along with veteran Bronson Koenig. Hayes is the workhorse of the team, averaging 31.7 minutes per game, the most on Wisconsin.
Happ is pretty much Wisconsin’s statistical giant. He’s leading the team with 14.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. At 6’10, the Milan, Ill. native does it all for Greg Gard’s team, who is trying to make a late push for better seeding in the Big Ten tournament. The former three-star recruit is one of college basketball’s best players, and it’s not just because of his offensive skills. He’s arguably the best defender in the nation.
How to watch
Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM