Ohio State saw their three-game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday night in Columbus when they couldn’t close out Purdue. The Buckeyes led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but Purdue never stopped fighting. The Boilermakers were able to sweep the regular season series with the Buckeyes when Jaden Ivey hit a game-winning three-pointer with five seconds to go. Ivey finished with 15 points off the bench for Purdue.
In the loss to Purdue, Duane Washington Jr. hit six three-pointers and finished with a team-high 21 points. The junior recorded his 800th career point in the loss, and currently sits at 802 points as a Buckeye. Washington has now scored at least 20 points in three of his last five games, and is leading Ohio State with 15.7 points per contest.
Washington wasn’t the only Buckeye to reach a milestone in the loss to Purdue. E.J. Liddell pulled down his 200th career rebound, and finished the game with seven boards to go along with his 11 points. Liddell is now just nine points away from reaching 400 career points. The sophomore forward sits behind Washington with 14.1 points per game and a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game this year.
To get back on the winning track, Ohio State will have to earn a win against a team that has had their number lately. The Buckeyes have dropped three straight games to Wisconsin, and is 73-88 all-time against the Badgers, including a 30-47 mark against Wisconsin in Madison. At least the Buckeyes have had a little success against the Badgers when both teams have been ranked, with Ohio State holding an 8-4 edge in those contests.
This will be the third straight road game that Ohio State will be taking on a team ranked in the top-15. The Buckeyes defeated Rutgers two weeks ago when the Scarlet Knights were ranked 15th in the country. Ohio State then defeated the 14th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini last Saturday in Champaign. Now Wisconsin enters this game ranked 10th in the country.
Ohio State could receive a big boost today if guard C.J. Walker is able to return to the court. Walker has missed the last four games while dealing with a hand injury. In Walker’s absence, Justice Sueing has taken over as the main ballhandler for Ohio State. Even though the Buckeyes have gone 3-1 in Walker’s absence, the offense will likely flow a little better with a veteran point guard back in the mix.
The possible return of Walker to the starting lineup could send Justin Ahrens back to the back. The junior sharpshooter has stepped up while Walker has been on the sidelines, and is hitting 50% of his three-point attempts this season. Ahrens has attempted 64 three-pointers this season, and just two field goals from inside the arc. On Tuesday night, Ahrens hit three three-pointers and finished with 12 points, which marked the third straight game that Ahrens has scored at least 11 points.
Ohio State will be taking on a Wisconsin team that is sitting ahead of them in the Big Ten standings. The Badgers enter today’s game having won four of their last five games. Oddly enough, Wisconsin’s only three losses this season have come against Michigan, Maryland, and Marquette — all teams that start with M. The Badgers are getting close to their 14th season of at least 20 wins in the last 15 years.
The last time Wisconsin took the court was on Wednesday night, where we saw the Badgers easily handle Northwestern 68-52 in Madison. Wisconsin led 41-34 at half, and then really turned up the defensive pressure, allowing just 18 points in the second half. Tyler Wahl scored a career-high 14 points to lead the way for the Badgers, while D’Mitrik Price added 12 points. Wisconsin did a great job of sharing the basketball, dishing out 14 assists on their 24 made field goals.
Ohio State will be going up against a familiar foe today, as former Buckeye Micah Potter is one of the key Wisconsin big men. Potter spent the first 59 games of his college basketball career, starting 16 games for Ohio State before deciding to transfer out of the program. During his time in Columbus, Potter averaged 4.1 points per game for the Buckeyes. Since then Potter has upped his game, and is scoring 12.1 points per game this year while grabbing 6.7 rebounds per game. The senior from Mentor has failed to reach double figures in the scoring column in just three games this season.
A fixture for Wisconsin over the last half-decade has been D’Mitrik Trice. The fifth-year senior guard is currently leading the Badgers with 14.8 points per game, which is a career-high. Today will be Trice’s 128th career game and 93rd career start for Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have done a good job at holding Trice in check over the years, only allowing the Huber Heights native to score more than 10 points once in six games between the schools. Trice really picked up his production around Christmas, scoring at least 20 points four times in a five-game span.
Along with Trice and Potter, expect to hear plenty from Wisconsin’s Brad Davison. The senior is essentially Wisconsin’s version of Aaron Craft. While Davison might not quite be at the same level as Craft was when the latter was with the Buckeyes, he is tremendous at making life miserable for opponents. Last year Davison was even suspended for a game after striking Iowa’s Connor McCaffery in the groin. Davison has averaged at least 9.8 points per game in each of his four years with the Badgers, and has started 108 games.
Ohio State seems to perform their best this year when their backs are against the wall, and that will certainly be the case today against Wisconsin. Last Saturday not many gave Ohio State a chance against Illinois, but the Buckeyes were able to build a lead against the Fighting Illini and hold off a late charge from the home team.
These days it is extremely tough to get a win in Madison. The Badgers have won 18 of their 19 games at the Kohl Center, and over the last 15 years Wisconsin is 143-27 at home in Big Ten games. Dating back to 2001, Ohio State has lost 13 of their last 16 trips to Madison. Last year Wisconsin secured a regular season sweep of the Buckeyes with a 70-57 win in Madison in February.
The return of C.J. Walker to the lineup would be huge for Ohio State’s chances in this game, but it still might not be enough. Not only will the Buckeyes have to contend with the size Wisconsin will throw at them with Potter, Wahl, and Nate Reuvers, but they’ll also have to contend with the experience in the backcourt that Wisconsin has with Trice and Davison.
Even if Ohio State doesn’t win this game, the sky isn’t falling. The key for the Buckeyes will be to at least stay competitive here. If Ohio State can keep things close in Wisconsin, they can compete anywhere with any team in the Big Ten. A win would be great for Ohio State for Big Ten and NCAA Tournament seeding purposes, but a loss won’t ruin their season.
Ohio State is going to need to be at their best if they want to take down the Badgers in Madison. The Buckeyes are getting better with Ahrens getting more time on the floor, Meechie Johnson getting his feet wet in the college game, and Seth Towns continuing to build up his playing time. Ohio State just isn’t quite to the level Wisconsin is at yet. There’s no shame in losing to the Badgers on their home court, especially with how loaded the Big Ten is this year.
ESPN BPI: Wisconsin 65.3%
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