Ohio State has not defeated Wisconsin in the Kohl Center since Bo Ryan took over as UW’s head coach in 2001. The No. 3 Buckeyes (19-3, 7-2 Big Ten) will be looking to reverse their fortunes when they take on the No. 19 Badgers (18-5, 7-3) in Madison on Saturday (2 p.m. ET; ESPN).
Can Craft and OSU top Taylor and UW?
The Kohl Center opened in January of 1998 and Ohio State actually won its first three trips there in 1998, ’99 and 2000 under then-head coach Jim O’Brien. However, the Buckeyes have lost their last nine meetings there, including 71-67 last year when they were 24-0 and ranked No. 1.
The Buckeyes avenged that loss with a 93-65 thumping of the Badgers in Columbus last season. But can this year’s team be the group that finally gets OSU over the hump in Madison against Ryan?
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta discussed the growing rivalry between OSU and UW.
“The one thing about college basketball, conference-wise, you probably have a lot of rivalry games just because of the nature of how the conference stacks up,” Matta said. “Obviously, we’ve had some tremendous battles with those guys, such as a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the country (in 2007) for the Big Ten championship, and a couple weeks later we play in the conference tournament championship. (Both games were won by OSU.)
“So, as you look at both programs, throughout the eight years I’ve been here, both teams have been nationally high-ranked and that sort of thing. So, I think that probably pours a little fuel on the fire if you will as far as the rivalry.
“Now, I don’t try to tell the guys, ‘This is the biggest game of the year and we’ve got to do this,’ or anything like that. It’s just that we know we’re playing a great basketball team – top 20 or whatever they are – and the fact we haven’t won there, it does make you definitely want to win.”
Matta’s message to his players this week has not been one about revenge.
“My biggest thing is: Do we know why we haven’t won there?” Matta said. “That’s more important than, ‘Hey, we haven’t won there.’ It’s ‘Why haven’t we won there?’”
Well, why haven’t the Buckeyes been successful against the Badgers during Matta’s tenure?
“They’ve scored more points than us,” he said with a laugh. “No, you look back at certain plays … I think it was year one and we miss a block out and they get a tip-in and cut our lead … there have been some great games. We got way down in year three up there and hit a shot to tie it. Jamar (Butler) hit a three to tie it. Last year, we were up 15 at one point, and Jordan Taylor went ballistic on us. So, there’s a lot of reasons.
“And like I said earlier, they’ve had really good teams up there.”
Matta On Using Deeper Bench
Ohio State has a formidable starting five with Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., William Buford, Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger. However, Matta also has a talented bench at his disposal and was asked why he doesn’t use certain players more.
“As crazy as it sounds, each game poses a different problem,” Matta said. “For instance, I’ll use Shannon Scott as an example: Shannon was tremendous in Sunday’s game (a 64-49 win over visiting Michigan) when he had a four-minute stretch. We didn’t get him in the second half and that was nothing that he had done.
“I just felt that we had a lead and Aaron, for instance, had a great feel for what Michigan was trying to do every time down the floor. So, I just sort of rode with him. And that’s an example because they were going with (Trey) Burke exclusively.
“So, each game is different in that regard.”
* Ohio State leads the all-time series against Wisconsin 82-65, although the Badgers lead 43-27 in Madison. OSU has a 5-2 edge in the series when both teams are ranked.
* Under Matta (since 2004-05), OSU is 6-9 against Wisconsin and 0-6 at the Kohl Center. It’s the only Big Ten arena – including Nebraska – that Matta has not won a game at while at OSU.
* Under Ryan (since 2001-02), Wisconsin is 13-7 against OSU.
* Ohio State is in sole possession of first-place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is tied with Michigan (7-3) for second. Michigan State (6-3) is in fourth, while Illinois (6-4) and Purdue (6-4) are tied for fifth. The Buckeyes are shooting for their third-consecutive conference championship.
Here are video links from Friday's interviews at Ohio State: