Tough contest ahead

first_imgWith an unblemished home record and only one road loss to Indiana, Ohio State is off to one of its hottest starts in 15 years.At the helm of the Buckeyes’ success is second-year head coach Thad Matta, who has brought the team from a losing record two years ago to a 20-12 record last season.Now, as of Saturday, the Buckeyes sit in second place in the Big Ten and have a 12-1 overall record.The only record to match Ohio State would be the 4-0 Big Ten opening by Wisconsin.With that start, head coach Bo Ryan must be excited by the way his team has been playing in the Big Ten.”We are 0-0 going into the next game,” Ryan said with a smug glare.There goes the enthusiasm.But the Badgers will need to be enthusiastic heading into Columbus. Having only one loss has propelled the Buckeyes to a new height of motivation — they don’t like to lose, something the Badgers don’t like to do, either.The Buckeyes have managed to secure a potent home-court advantage at Value City Arena, where they have managed to outscore their opponents 749-579.The 19th-nationally ranked Buckeyes will be the third ranked team the Badgers have faced on the road.So far, the Badgers have a 0-2 record when contending with ranked opponents on the road. Wisconsin has also had only one true road win — against Minnesota last Tuesday. In that game, the Badgers squeaked by the Gophers for a 64-62 victory.”Being in an atmosphere [like Minnesota] can help us for Ohio State,” sophomore Brian Butch said after the game. “This atmosphere helped bring us together, and we responded to that.””We need to play harder,” senior Ray Nixon said. “We have been struggling on the road in the first two losses we had. I think the [Minnesota] game was a good wake-up call in that we can win on the road if we stick together as a team. So we got to go in there and play Wisconsin basketball as a team and not as individuals.”With a mindset to play together as a team, the Badgers will need to stop the power from senior center Terence Dials, who has been averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds.”Dials will be a beast and is going to be strong in the post,” junior Alando Tucker said about the matchup against the Buckeyes. “But we handled him well last year.We still need to watch a lot of film on how we were able to control them. It’s going to be a tough game, so we are going to have to stick to team principles. That is the whole thing, and that is how we are successful on defense.”Other than Dials, the Buckeyes also have power in Je’Kel Foster, their leading scorer (15.2 points), who has been shooting 54 percent from the 3-point range and 61 percent from the floor.The Buckeyes have two more players averaging above double digits in scoring — Ron Lewis (13.2) and J.J. Sullinger (10.7).Just as the Badgers saw against Northwestern, Ohio State is a small team, with its starting five averaging just above 6-foot-5 in height. The Badgers were able to handle the height difference well against the Wildcats as Nixon, Tucker and Kammron Taylor all ended the game with double digits in scoring.Freshman Joe Krabbenhoft also had a great game against Northwestern and Minnesota, another small-sized team, scoring six points against the Gophers and six rebounds against Northwestern.”[Krabbenhoft] works hard,” Ryan said. “He is aggressive, intelligent, he sticks with our rules and he is getting better every game.”With Krabbenhoft’s help, the Badgers are off to the hottest Big Ten start in more than 40 years. Like Ryan, Tucker says their secret has been taking each game one at a time.”We are a team that never looks that far ahead,” Tucker said. “We have to take it one game at a time. If we keep doing that, we should remain solid, and that is why we are at the top of the Big Ten.”last_img