On Thursday evening, the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers (13-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) are back in action for the first time since Sunday when the No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-3 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) come to town for a big time conference clash.
#13 Wisconsin vs. #16 Ohio State— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) January 12, 2022
We've got a B1G, top-20 matchup
We need your energy Thursday!!
The Badgers are rolling right along currently, having won five straight games since losing to...Ohio State just over a month ago. After that game, the Buckeyes were on a lengthy holiday/COVID pause (just over three weeks) and since they returned to action haven’t 100% looked like the same team that pummeled the Badgers. OSU is 2-1 in their past three games, an OT win over Nebraska, a blowout loss to Indiana and a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over Northwestern.
You will find no bigger supporters of Johnny Davis than the folks here at this blog, but it is certainly worth noting that OSU big man E.J. Liddell might...be having an even better season than Davis. The 6-foot-7 junior is one of the best shot blockers in the country, can score from anywhere on the court and does all of this with an incredibly high usage. Liddell, who was never known as an outside shooter, is making threes at a 37.3% clip on decent volume (51 attempts) this season.
We asked friend of the blog, Patrick Mayhorn over at Buckeye Sports Bulletin about Liddell’s improved shooting. “The feedback he got from the NBA was that he needed to expand his game a bit and there’s been a focus on doing that, but he’s also spoken about not wanting to overdo it and lose what he is. He’s still an inside-out guy, just a little more willing to shoot it than he was and decently better at hitting those shots,” Mayhorn notes.
Liddell was a monster in Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin earlier this year, scoring 28 points (11-of-16 shooting), grabbing nine rebounds (four offensive), dishing out four assists, blocking two shots and also nabbing a steal. For a guy who was used on 35% of the team’s possessions, he only turned it over twice. He also got Chris Vogt and Steven Crowl in foul trouble, which can’t happen again if Wisconsin wants to exact their revenge.
Davis will also have to be more efficient in the return game. Sure he scored 24 points, but it took him 22 shots to get there and he also didn’t attempt a single free throw. In fact, the Badgers only attempted nine as a team and will need to focus on getting to the rim even though Liddell and Zed Key are rock solid rim protectors.
The Badgers were also out-worked on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 49-28, and that can’t happen again either. Wisconsin also only made 6-of-26 three point attempts against OSU and hopefully playing in their home arena this time will help improve that number.
Tyler Wahl had a rough outing against the Buckeyes a month ago, but has been playing some of the best basketball of his career recently and won’t put up a three points and one rebound performance again. Steven Crowl also went scoreless last time against OSU and that seems unlikely to happen too. On the other side, OSU freshman guard Malaki Branham was also held scoreless but is now the back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
This should be a different, and closer, game than the first one and as much of a cop-out as this is...either team winning wouldn’t be surprising.
How to watch/listen
TV: ESPN2, 6:00 p.m. CT, Jason Benetti, Jon Crispin
Streaming: ESPN App; WatchESPN
Radio/Satellite: WIBA 1310 AM, Sirius/XM 195; Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas
Live stats: Here!
Arena: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
DraftKings Line: Wisconsin -2.5
(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)
KenPom Wisconsin win percentage: 56%
Torvik Wisconsin win percentage: 60%
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- This season, the Badgers have four Quad 1 wins, equaling the most in the NCAA and eight wins over KenPom top-100 teams, tied for the most in the nation.
- Wisconsin has four double-digit comebacks this season, including three second-half comebacks of 10+ points.
- The Badgers are averaging 71.7 ppg, which would be the team’s second-highest mark of the Greg Gard era. UW is also playing at its fastest pace in over 20 years.
- UW ranks third in the Big Ten shooting 76.4% at the FT line and has made almost as many FTs (227) as its foes have attempted (231).
- Wisconsin leads the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game (8.2) and ranks second in lowest turnover percentage (10.5%) this season.
- Saturday’s game will mark meeting No. 170 between Wisconsin and Ohio State in a series that dates back to 1905.
- The Buckeyes lead the all-time series, 94-75, but the Badgers hold a 49-34 advantage in games played in Madison.
- The Badgers have won six of the last 10 games against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have won the last two meetings. That includes a rare win in Madison in last season’s only matchup.
- Wisconsin trailed by just five at the half, in the teams’ first meeting a month ago, but couldn’t slow No. 21 Ohio State in the second half, falling 74-55, in the team’s first Big Ten road game of the season.
- The Badgers shot just 34%, while OSU went 50% from the field. That led the Buckeyes out-rebounding UW, 49-28.
- UW got the line a season-low nine times, going just 5-for-9. OSU was 9-for-13 at the stripe.
- Both UW and OSU have been ranked in 11 of the last 20 meetings. The Badgers are 5-6 in those games.
- Ohio State is seeking its first official regular season home-and-home sweep of Wisconsin since 1992. (Note: The Buckeyes swept the season series in 1999 and 2000, but three of those four wins were vacated by the NCAA.)
- E.J. Liddell is currently the only player in the country averaging 20.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.5 assists per game. Over the last 29 years, only Tim Duncan has averaged those numbers in a season.
- OSU freshman Malaki Branham has stepped up the last three games. The reigning two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week has scored 72 points (24 ppg) over the last three games, including a 35-point outburst at Nebraska on Jan. 2. That eclipsed the 63 points he scored in the first 10 games of the season
- Johnny Davis is the only Big Ten player to lead his team in points (22.3 ppg), rebounds (7.3 rpg) and assists (2.7 apg).
- Brad Davison also ranks No. 4 for the Badgers in rebounds (4.2 rpg), No. 3 in assists (29) and leads the team with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio (29 assists, 12 turnovers). He also ranks second on UW and No. 18 in the Big Ten averaging 14.5 ppg.
- If he starts against OSU, which he should, Davison will move into second place (by himself) with 140 career starts at UW. Josh Gasser has the record, starting 144 games during his Wisconsin career.
- 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, guard, No. 10
- Malaki Branham, 6-foot-5, freshman, guard, No. 22
- Zed Key, 6-foot-8, sophomore, forward, No. 23 / Kyle Young, 6-foot-8, super senior, forward, No. 25
- E.J. Liddell, 6-foot-7, junior, forward, No. 32
- Jamari Wheeler, 6-foot-1, super senior, guard, No. 55