By TOM LEA
The game, at least in terms of the Big Ten standings, doesn’t mean much. A win would keep the Badgers in fourth place. A loss would do the same, although tiebreakers would probably become involved.
Here are three keys to Sunday’s game.
1.) The Sullinger effect:
Ryan Evans was the only Badger player that had any sort of success defending Sullinger during the first meeting. He was physical with Sullinger and did a solid job fronting the post, which allowed help defenders to cinch Sullinger if a lob was ever tossed to the block. Sullinger was much more ineffective during the final portion of the second half.
The tough news for Wisconsin is that it’s going to be incredibly difficult to find a way to limit him like that throughout the course of the entire game. Expect Jared Berggren to play a better game, particularly defensively. Teams have had success against Ohio State in recent weeks because they’ve been physical with the Buckeyes big man.
Berggren and company will try to follow suit.
2.) But Sullinger’s not the only one:
Ohio State still has William Buford, a senior playing his final game inside the Schottenstein Center. He can shoot lights out, in a fashion similar to Matt Gatens, if he gets confidence rolling early. He can be a major factor in the game if Wisconsin doesn’t defend the perimeter as well.
And then there is Deshaun Thomas. He went off against the Badgers the first time around and his athleticism and length is difficult to defense. Wisconsin will need to weather the perfect storm of capable Ohio State scorers. Do that and UW has a chance. It’s unfortunate how that’s easier said than done.
3.) Rebounding from the loss:
The last time the Badgers had a tough loss in a game they probably could have won they went on the road and snatched a tough, hard earned win the next time out. Ohio State knocked off the Badgers in the Kohl Center with first-place on the line in the Big Ten earlier this month. Obviously a disappointing loss for UW, it bounced back and got a win at Minnesota a few days later.
So with the shocking loss at Iowa in the rearview mirror it will be interesting to see if Wisconsin will have any momentum on its side against Ohio State. Will the Buckeyes potentially overlook the Badgers or will they come ready to play on senior night with the hopes of dispatching one of their bigger conference rivals.
Will Wisconsin continue to shoot the ball well — it shot over 50 percent in the loss at Iowa — and force Ohio State into tough shots defensively? It’s all going to be needed for a Badger victory.
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