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What To Watch: Wisconsin @ OSU

We have our preview and a prediction for Tuesday’s game as No. 11 Ohio State hosts Wisconsin (7 p.m., ESPN).

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In the video boards, we have comments from OSU coach Thad Matta (above) and players Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson (below).

Here is our What To Watch feature for Tuesday’s game against Wisconsin:

Opponent: Wisconsin

* Where: Value City Arena (Capacity: 18,809); Columbus

* Date, Time: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

* TV: ESPN (Announcers: Mike Tirico, Dan Dakich, Samantha Ponder)

* 2012-13 Records: Ohio State, 15-4 overall, 5-2 Big Ten; Wisconsin, 14-6 overall, 5-2 Big Ten

* Poll Rankings: Ohio State, 11th in the AP poll and the USA Today coaches poll; Wisconsin, unranked (the Badgers are 28th in the AP poll and 29th in the coaches poll).

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* RPI Rankings: Ohio State, 24th; Wisconsin, 47th. (This is the time for Ohio State to improve its RPI and move into the top 20 or even top 15. All of its last 11 scheduled opponents are in the top 100 in RPI.)

* Key Players (2012-13 Stats): Ohio State – F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7, jr., 20.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg; G Aaron Craft, 6-2, jr., 8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.8 spg; G Lenzelle Smith Jr., 6-4, jr., 10.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 apg; F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, so., 7.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg; C Amir Williams, 6-11, so., 4.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg; F-C Evan Ravenel, 6-8, sr., 6.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg; F Sam Thompson, 6-7, so., 7.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg; G Shannon Scott, 6-2, so., 5.6 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.7 spg. Wisconsin – F-C Jared Berggren, 6-10, sr., 12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg; F Ryan Evans, 6-6, sr., 10.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg; G Ben Brust, 6-1, jr., 10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.9 apg; F Sam Dekker, 6-7, fr., 9.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg; F Mike Brusewitz, 6-6, sr., 7.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg; G George Marshall, 5-11, fr., 5.8 ppg; G Traevon Jackson, 6-2, so., 5.8 ppg, 2.6 apg.

* Quality Of Opponent: Extremely dangerous. Wisconsin struggled a bit during nonconference play, losing games to No. 10 Florida (74-56), No. 14 Creighton (84-74), Virginia (60-54) and Marquette (60-50). But the Badgers came out of the gate strong in Big Ten play, winning their first four conference games.

That fourth win was at then-No. 2 Indiana (64-59). The Badgers held IU to 37 percent shooting in that win. UW then dropped games at Iowa (70-66) and at home to No. 13 Michigan State (49-47) before holding off No. 12 Minnesota (45-44) on Saturday. UW held Minnesota to 35 percent shooting in that win over the Gophers.

From these scores, you can discern that Wisconsin is a slow-it-down, grind-it-out kind of team. The Badgers are eighth nationally in scoring defense (55.4 ppg). They also lead the nation in turnovers at 9.1 per game. You need patience and perseverance to beat this team – either at home or on the road.

Berggren is UW’s leading scorer, but he has only averaged six points over his last four games. Jackson, the son of former OSU All-American Jim Jackson and a Westerville, Ohio, native, hit the game-winning shot in UW’s win over Minnesota on Saturday.

* OSU-Wisconsin Series: Ohio State leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 83-66, including 52-22 in Columbus. The teams have split the last 14 meetings down the middle at seven wins apiece.

The teams split their games last year with OSU winning in Madison (58-52) and Wisconsin winning in Columbus (63-60). Jared Sullinger led OSU with 24 points and 10 rebounds in the win at Madison, while Deshaun Thomas had 16 points. Ryan Evans led UW with 14 points in that game.

In the return match in Columbus, Ryan Berggren hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 31 seconds left for the Badgers. Thomas double-clutched on a late jumper under pressure and missed it. Jordan Taylor had 19 points and Berggren had 18 for Wisconsin. Thomas led OSU with 23 points and seven rebounds.

Ohio State is 7-5 against Wisconsin at Value City Arena since it opened in 1998-99.

Since his arrival at OSU in 2004-05, Thad Matta is 7-10 against Wisconsin. Since his arrival at Wisconsin in 2001-02, Bo Ryan is 14-8 against Ohio State.

* Fun Facts: Ohio State is 72-20 vs. Big Ten opponents at Value City Arena … Ohio State owns a 148-13 home record during the Thad Matta era. The Buckeyes are 66-4 in Columbus over the past four seasons. That includes a 10-1 home record this year. The lone home loss was to Kansas on Dec. 22 (74-66) … Matta’s teams are also 196-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 66-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois in January 2002 (79-74). The Buckeyes have won 63 straight home games against unranked opponents, dating to a Dec. 27, 2008, loss to West Virginia … Thomas is coming off a season-low 11-point effort against Penn State. He goes into this game with 1,277 points and 30th on the OSU career scoring list. The next player on the list is Jared Sullinger at No. 29 (1,282) … Thomas is one of three players nationally averaging more than 20 points and 6 rebounds. The others are Creighton's Doug McDermott and VMI's Stan Okoye. At Ohio State, the last to do so were Evan Turner in 2009-10 and Michael Redd in 1997-98 … Wisconsin is 2-3 in road games this season with wins at Nebraska and Indiana and losses at Florida, Marquette and Iowa.

* Match-Ups To Watch: The Badgers want and need Berggren to produce if they are going to beat a quality opponent on the road. Williams and Ravenel will have to be on top of things defensively, especially as he may leak outside to the perimeter for open shots – like the one he hit to beat the Buckeyes last year.

On the perimeter, Brust is hitting 38.8 percent of his three-point shots. Look for Smith and Craft to stay with him and try to deny him clean looks.

* What’s At Stake: The winner of this game will remain one game behind Big Ten co-leaders Michigan and Indiana (both 6-1 Big Ten) in the loss column. Ohio State can ill afford a home loss to stay in contact with the Big Ten leaders.

* What They’re Saying: Scott on his role as OSU’s first guard off the bench: “I feel like a more important part of the team. I feel like I have to come in there and make plays. I can’t just be another player on the court. I have to come in and make something happen. I always have to be productive.”

Scott on losing to Wisconsin at home last year: “That was our senior night last year and it was Will (Buford’s) last game here. We want to go out and play this for him. We sent him out with a loss. They are a great team and we know we have to be ready to play.

“We know we have to play really hard. They have a great coach and great players. We have to be ready for that.”

Thompson on his emergence after his 16-point game at Penn State: “We talked in the shootaround the night before. Coach Matta just said he wanted me to play hard and play aggressive. He didn’t mention so much the offensive end as he did the defensive end and the rebounding.

“He told me I had only one offensive rebound and four steals in Big Ten play. He wanted me to focus on rebounding the ball and defending. My teammates hit me in spots where I could get some open looks and I was able to knock them down.”

Thompson on the difficulty of the Big Ten: “Coach Matta talked about it with us a few weeks ago. He said, ‘There really aren’t any games where you can say we can mark it down and it’s an easy win.’ We have to bring our best game and bring it for 40 minutes. You saw it this past week against Iowa and Penn State. It shows how good and how tough our conference is. We just have to bring it.”

Matta on the mind-set his team needs against Wisconsin: “You do that with every team. You try to give your guys a snapshot of how it’s going to be in terms of style of play and physicality and how they’re trying to execute. This is no different. The pace is probably different than what we’ve gone against.

“Our guys understand that. You can look at the scores the last few games and know it will be a low possession game. But they will run and score in transition if the opportunity is there.”

Matta on what Wisconsin showed in its road win at Indiana: “Number one, they made shots. At the end of the shot clock, they made an inordinate amount of shots. Wisconsin is a great basketball team. They are a mature, older and veteran team. You look across the board at who they’re starting and how long they’ve been there.

“I don’t want to say it’s not surprising because Indiana is a tough place to play. But give them credit, they played a heck of a game that day.”

* Next On The Docket: Ohio State visits Nebraska (11-10, 2-6) on Saturday (7 p.m., Big Ten Network). OSU defeated Nebraska 70-44 on Jan. 2 in Columbus. The Huskers visit Minnesota on Tuesday before hosting OSU.

* How We See It: These games against Wisconsin are always like a root canal. The Badgers play great halfcourt defense and make their opponents settle for lower percentage shots. The key for OSU, which has struggled somewhat in the halfcourt, will be patience and great execution.

The Buckeyes usually play at a higher level at home, but they will need a sustained effort over 40 minutes to win this game because Wisconsin will not be going away.

Thomas, coming off a 4-for-13 shooting game against Penn State, will want to come back in a big way. But he will have the ultimate blue collar defender in Brusewitz doing everything he can to keep him in check. It would be big if the Buckeyes can get Thomas off to a quick start.

Defensively, Wisconsin works the ball from side to side until something – a mismatch or an open shot – develops. The Buckeyes must be assignment sound and patient. They, above all else, must grab defensive rebounds and deny UW second- or third-chance opportunities.

This is going to be one more war between two pretty good Big Ten teams. In the last five years, seven of the nine OSU-Wisconsin games have been decided by six points or less. Look for the same thing on Tuesday night … with Ohio State getting the critical stop and the points it needs at the end to win it.

I’ve got it: Ohio State 61, Wisconsin 56

Also Check Out

Click here for Lee Caryer's weekly column and a look at Big Ten showdowns this week (including OSU-Wisconsin and Michigan-Indiana).

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