Coming off of the largest comeback win in school history, the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers (8-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) are in Columbus, Ohio for their first conference road test against the No. 21 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten).
The Buckeyes have played a pretty tough schedule already this year and have wins against Duke and Seton Hall on their resume. They have also, weirdly, struggled with lesser teams like Towson and Akron before eventually pulling away for wins. Their two losses are to Xavier and Florida, both away from home. Kind of a roller coaster ride of a season for OSU so far.
Wisconsin has now won six games in a row after roaring back to beat Indiana at the Kohl Center on Wednesday. With their only loss of the season coming when Johnny Davis was out of the lineup with an injury, the Badgers will be looking to extend that winning streak to seven in one of the tougher road venues in the conference.
Top-25 Road Test! It's GAME DAY‼️ pic.twitter.com/JMmU0WChkX— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) December 11, 2021
Ohio State has one of the best and most efficient offenses in the country, coming into the game ranked No. 8 in the nation in offensive efficiency by KenPom and sporting a 57.1 eFG% (No. 11 in country) and 39.2 3P% (No. 18 in country). Big man E.J. Liddell is having a monster season so far. He is rated as the No. 1 player in KenPom’s player of the year rankings (Johnny Davis is No. 4 btw) and is averaging 19.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.6 apg and 3.1 bpg while shooting 54.1% from the field.
Liddell’s usage rate is through the roof and he draws 8.1 fouls per 40 minutes, which is fifth best in the country, and he will be a problem for Wisconsin’s big men. Much like in the second half against IU where Wisconsin big man Chris Vogt found some success against Trayce Jackson-Davis, we might see more minutes for the backup center to do battle with Liddell.
Senior wing Justin Ahrens is making 44.4% of his threes on high volume (24-of-54) and Penn State transfer PG Jamari Wheeler has been running the offense smoothly, but is prone to bouts of, uh, turning the ball over (as is backup Meechie Johnson).
It would appear that if the three ball isn’t falling for the Buckeyes they are far more likely to lose the game as their three worst shooting games from deep are their two losses and their one-point win over Akron. So, if Davis, Chucky Hepburn and Brad Davison can hound OSU’s shooters from deep, the Badgers should be able to stay in this one.
This will be another great “measuring stick” game for an unproven team that has passed every single test that has been given to them this year. One thing is for certain, these Badgers won’t be intimidated by the atmosphere or by being down a few points in the first half.
How to watch/listen
TV: BTN, 11:00 a.m. CT, Cory Provus, Robbie Hummel
Streaming: FOX SPORTS App; Fox Sports
Radio/Satellite: WIBA 1310 AM, Sirius/XM 195; Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas
Live stats: Here!
Arena: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
DraftKings Line: Wisconsin +4
(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)
KenPom Wisconsin win percentage: 35%
Torvik Wisconsin win percentage: 32%
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- Wisconsin has already tallied six wins over KenPom top-100 teams, the most in the nation. Alabama, BYU and MSU have five.
- The Badgers have already claimed four wins away from Kohl Center, matching USC for the most road/neutral wins among major conference teams this season.
- Ranked No. 19 in the NET, the Badgers are tied with Michigan State for the most Quad 1/2 wins (five) in the nation. UW is 3-0 in Quad 1 opportunities and 2-1 in Quad 2.
- Wisconsin leads the Big Ten allowing 59.1 ppg. The Badgers are No. 15 in the NCAA in defensive efficiency according to KenPom. Only one opponent has averaged more than 1.0 PPP in a game against UW this season.
- UW leads the Big Ten shooting 79.9% at the free throw line and has made more FTs (135) than its opponents have attempted (130).
- UW ranks second in the Big Ten averaging just 8.6 turnovers per game.
- As a team, the Buckeyes are shooting 49.0 percent from the floor which is second best in the conference. They are also second in three-point percentage at 39.2.
- Johnny Davis leads Wisconsin averaging 20.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg. He also leads UW in steals (11) and ranks second in assists (18). Davis is shooting 40.0% from 3-point range and 82.6% at the free throw line.
- Freshman point guard Chucky Hepburn leads UW in assists (19), while ranking second in steals (10).
- Fellow freshman point guard Lorne Bowman II is shooting a team-high 53.3% from 3-point range, going 8-for-15 from deep.
- On the year, Tyler Wahl ranks fourth for the Badgers in scoring (8.6 ppg) and second in rebounding (5.6 rpg). He ranks third for UW in FG% (.441).
- OSU big man E.J. Liddell has been in double-figures in every game and has posted four 20-point games this season. He leads the team and is third in the conference in scoring at 19.8 points per game. Liddell is also in the Top 10 in the country in free throws attempted with 68 (7.5 attempts per game).
- Ahrens is shooting 44 percent from long range this season and is shooting over 41 percent from distance in his career. He has only attempted two (2!!!!) shots inside the arc this season.
- Saturday’s game will mark the No. 169 meeting between Wisconsin and Ohio State in a series that dates back to 1905.
- OSU leads the all-time series, 93-75, including a mark of 55-25 in Columbus.
- Head coach Greg Gard is 5-3 all-time vs. OSU.
- The Badgers have won six of the last nine meetings with Ohio State, but the Buckeyes claimed the only meeting last season, winning 74-62 in Madison.
- Johnny Davis, 6-foot-5, sophomore, guard, No. 1
- Tyler Wahl, 6-foot-9, junior, forward, No. 5
- Steven Crowl, 7-foot, sophomore, forward, No. 22
- Chucky Hepburn, 6-foot-2, freshman, guard, No. 23
- Brad Davison, 6-foot-4, super senior, guard, No. 34
- Justin Ahrens, 6-foot-6, senior, forward, No. 10
- Malaki Branham, 6-foot-5, freshman, guard, No. 22
- Zed Key, 6-foot-8, sophomore, forward, No. 23
- E.J. Liddell, 6-foot-7, junior, forward, No. 32
- Jamari Wheeler, 6-foot-1, super senior, guard, No. 55
Status Update: Wisconsin at Ohio St— brandon harrison (@brandonharrison) December 11, 2021
Lorne Bowman II and Carter Gilmore did not travel — sick (not COVID)
For the second straight game the Badgers will be missing a couple of key bench pieces as PG Lorne Bowman II and wing Carter Gilmore didn’t make the trip to Columbus due to a non-COVID illness.