After crushing OSU 15 days ago, UW gears up for a different animal
As the teams met at center-court to shake hands after Wisconsin's 65-43 thrashing of Ohio State Dec. 31, Bo Ryan leaned in to the street-clothed Evan Turner and said, "Good luck. Unfortunately, you'll be playing when we come in?"
That was the exchange we saw on the Big Ten Network's "The Journey" and at the time, a return that quickly from the fractured vertebrae Turner suffered would have been ahead of schedule.
Apparently Ryan knew better.
Turner came back less than a week later as he played 20 minutes in OSU's 79-54 win over Indiana Jan. 6. The return was slow, at least at first. Turner only scored eight points against IU, but then head coach Thad Matta turned him loose against Minnesota a few days later. He scored 19 points in 38 minutes in the loss to the Gophers, but then put up 32 points and played all 40 minutes in OSU's stunning, come-from-behind 70-66 victory at Purdue Tuesday.
The importance of the win over Purdue cannot be understated for Ohio State. A loss would have put the Buckeyes at 1-4 in conference play and left them reeling as the hottest team in the Big Ten came into town Saturday. Instead, it could be a win that completely changes the course of the Buckeyes' season. It's hard to come up with a better confidence booster than a win at No. 8 Purdue with your semi-hurt star proving he is more than OK with a 32 point performance.
Good luck Badgers.
But are we at the point where we should no longer be doubting this Wisconsin team? I've been covering Bo Ryan's teams for five years now and yet I still find myself doubting the Badgers in almost every single game they play. I should know better, right?
In fact, the only time I didn't have any doubt this season (in a game against a BCS conference school), was the first game against Ohio State. Yet, the Badgers still shattered by expectations by winning by 22 points.
Even against Penn State I thought to myself, "Well, they've only played one true road game so far and they lost at Green Bay. They should win, but you never know." Boom. Easy 17-point victory.
But here I go again, doubting the Badgers chances Saturday in Columbus. How can you not? So what if Wisconsin won by 22 points at home, Ohio State has Turner back and Wisconsin doesn't have Jon Leuer. I like the Bucks in this one, but I'm smart enough to know the Badgers have a chance if they do the following:
Keys to the Game
- Don't be too concerned about Turner. Stay with me here. The reason why OSU is a completely different team with Turner is because they have three Scottie Pippen's to complement their Michael Jordan. Without him, David Lighty, William Buford and Jon Diebler get more attention and struggle, but with Turner, the Buckeyes have four guys who can go off and score 20 or more points in any given game. Don't forget about the Scottie Pippens.
- Win the rebounding battle. It's tough to do on the road, but the Badgers grabbed 11 straight rebounds near the end of Wednesday's win at Northwestern and they have to win the rebounding battle at Ohio State if they want to go home with a victory.
- Trevon Hughes needs a complete game. His performance at the end of Wednesday's game is one that will be remembered for a long time, but what can't be forgotten is that he started the game 0-for-9 and let his struggles carry over to the defensive end where Michael Thompson was blowing by him. Hughes is going to have to guard Turner and UW needs him to play a complete, 40-minute game both offensively and defensively if it wants to start the season 5-1 in conference play.
I'm doing it. I don't know why. I know better...
Ohio State 61, Wisconsin 55