After jumping 10 spots in the AP poll on the strength of three conference victories last week, 13th-ranked Wisconsin will be out to avenge one of its two losses when it faces 16th-ranked Ohio State in a Big Ten matchup on Thursday night in Madison, Wis.
Wisconsin (13-2, 4-1 Big Ten) has won five in a row since losing 73-55 at Ohio State on Dec. 11. The Badgers moved up from No. 23 after winning 74-69 at then-third-ranked Purdue, defeating Iowa 87-78 in Madison and then holding on for a 70-69 victory at Maryland on Sunday after leading early by 21 points.
“Obviously, never easy. Life on the road in the Big Ten,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I didn’t expect it to be easy, but credit to our guys to continue to find the grit and resolve to make things happen when things were not going well.”
The Buckeyes (10-3, 4-1) defeated Northwestern 95-87 at home on Sunday after losing 67-51 on the road to Indiana on Jan. 6.
The Badgers are led by 6-foot-5 guard Johnny Davis, who entered the week fifth in the nation in scoring at 22.3 points per game. Davis also averages a team-best 7.4 rebounds. Brad Davison averages 14.5 points and has made a team-leading 35 3-pointers.
Tyler Wahl, who averages 10.2 points and 5.3 rebounds, stepped up for a career-high 21 points against Maryland when Davis and Davison shot a combined 10 of 29, including 2 of 14 beyond the arc.
Freshman point guard Chucky Hepburn has been solid defensively and has just 18 turnovers in 15 games.
Wisconsin leads the nation in fewest turnovers at 8.2 per game. The Badgers are 7-1 at home, losing 63-58 to Providence in mid-November when Davis did not play. Ohio State is 4-4 in its past eight games at Wisconsin.
Against Northwestern, the Buckeyes were without head coach Chris Holtmann and assistant Ryan Pedon due to health and safety protocol.
Junior forward E.J. Liddell leads the Buckeyes with 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Liddell had a career-best 34 points in the win over Northwestern, including 17 of the Buckeyes’ first 19.
Malaki Branham averages 10.4 points and this week became the first Buckeye named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in consecutive weeks since D’Angelo Russell in February 2015.
“The game is slowing down for him a little bit,” said assistant Jake Diebler, who was acting head coach in Holtmann’s absence. “He’s figuring out how to get more shots off and he’s staying aggressive, playing with a little more physicality and force than what he started with at the beginning of the year.”
In the Buckeyes’ first encounter with the Badgers, Ohio State shot 50 percent while holding Wisconsin to just 33.8 percent, including 6 of 26 (23.1 percent) from 3-point range. Davis had 24 points and Davison 13, but the rest of the Badgers shot just 7-for-31 (22.6 percent).
The Buckeyes also pounded the Badgers on the glass, 49-28, with Kyle Young pulling down 14 and Liddell and Zed Key nine apiece. Liddell scored a game-high 28 points, and Key contributed 11.
–Field Level Media