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Badgers Battle Buckeyes For First Place

MADISON, Wis. - In case you hadn't heard, the Badgers have a pretty big game coming up. No. 20 Wisconsin will host No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday in the Kohl Center, with the winning team claiming first place in the Big Ten, at least for the time being. It will also be another chapter in the growing rivalry between the two schools, which just got a little more intense on the football side of things with a spat between Bret Bielema and Urban Meyer.

But if you asked head coach Bo Ryan, the Badgers aren't looking at Saturday's game any differently. They have a history with the Buckeyes, but that doesn't mean the Badgers will get worked up about having another chance to take down another highly ranked Ohio State squad.

"I don't see our guys getting too high or two low. You keep an even keel, you work," Ryan said Friday. "If you try to make a big deal out of one (game), what do you do the next time?"

Having the game in the Kohl Center definitely works in the Badgers' favor. Under Bo Ryan, the Badgers are 5-1 against AP Top 5 teams at home, and are currently on a five game winning streak. You don't have to look that far back to find their last Top 5 win: Feb. 12, 2011, when the Badgers beat the Buckeyes 71-67 on the strength of Jordan Taylor's 27 points. That kind of success doesn't just happen, according to Ryan.

"Success isn't an instant thing," Ryan said. "It's something that develops over a long period of time. These guys didn't become good basketball players in one week, working really hard, and then going ‘hey, now I think I'm a good basketball player.'

"Everything you do in life takes time. Success is something that's a series of building blocks."

And if the Badgers want to beat the Buckeyes and extend their winning streak to seven games, they'll need to neutralize Ohio State's strengths, and play their best game in a while. They can't afford another slow start like they had against Penn State, where they scored just 17 points before the half. Forcing the Buckeyes to take more jump shots than they're comfortable with would go a long way, as they shoot 33.4 percent from three-point range, and prefer to rely on their inside game.

"Everybody has their strengths," Ryan said. "The only way you can win consistently over a long period of time is to be a team that recognizes strengths and tries to minimize those strengths.

"The programs that are (winning) more often than not are teams that are taking away the other team's strength as much as possible, and try to minimize their own weaknesses."

How well the Badgers can do that on Saturday will determine if they're sitting in first place after the game, or stewing after what would be their third conference loss in the Kohl Center this season.