January 28, 2013
Buckeyes, Badgers building bad blood
Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the world of college football, there's no disputing who Ohio State's rival is. But Buckeyes basketball? That's a different story.
Playing most Big Ten opponents twice- and sometimes three times- over the course of each season, no one game truly stands out on OSU's schedule from season to season. And while some games may mean more than others just depending on where they land on each schedule, you'd be hard-pressed to find an opponent who the Buckeyes have played more meaningful games against recently than Wisconsin.
"Honestly, it seems like all the games that we've played have had major implications for one reason or another," OSU coach Thad Matta said.
The first big time battle between the Buckeyes and Badgers came six years ago, when a buzzer-beater from OSU's Mike Conley Jr. helped the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes beat top-ranked Wisconsin in Columbus. The bad blood between the two programs again made itself apparent in 2011, when the Badgers brought an end to OSU's run at an undefeated season, beating the Buckeyes by a score of 71-67 in Madison.
Ohio State avenged that loss a month later, stomping Wisconsin 93-65 in a game that included a 14-of-15 shooting performance from 3-point territory for the Buckeyes.
"That first loss in college, I didn't take that too lightly," then-OSU freshman forward Jared Sullinger said at the time. "I wanted to win, and I wanted to win big, too."
While that win on Ohio State's 2011 senior night provided the Buckeyes with one of their signature victories, it was just a year later that the tables were turned. William Buford's senior day celebration was spoiled last season, thanks to a 63-60 Badgers victory in Columbus.
And with Wisconsin coming to town for a 7 p.m. tipoff at the Schottenstein Center tomorrow, the most recent meeting between the two teams will be fresh on the Buckeyes' minds.
"It was our senior night last year, and they beat us on Will's last game, so we kinda want to play this for him 'cause we kind of sent him out with a loss and we didn't appreciate doing that," OSU point guard Shannon Scott said. "They're a great team, we know that, so we've gotta be ready to play and just prepare for that."
Matta admitted that he's shared some memorable match-ups with Wisconsin, but also downplayed the thought of a budding rivalry between the two teams. With both teams still in the thick of the race for the Big Ten title, the OSU coach said that's what will be at the forefront of his team's mind tomorrow.
"Honestly, after tomorrow night's game, it's going to be like, 'Okay, Nebraska,'" Matta said, referring to his team's Saturday matchup with the Huskers. "It's another Big Ten challenge."
That message has been received loud and clear by Matta's players, who are well aware of the program that Bo Ryan has put together in Madison.
"We want to treat them the same that we treat everybody else," Scott said. "We know we gotta play really hard, be ready for their whole game. They have a great coach and great players, so we just gotta be ready for that."
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