January 29, 2013
Three-point play: Wisconsin
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Coming off of victories over Iowa and Penn State last week, the No. 11 Ohio State men's basketball team (15-4, 5-2) will look to extend its Big Ten winning streak to three games when it hosts Wisconsin (14-6, 52) for a 7 p.m. tipoff at the Schottenstein Center tonight. On Monday, Thad Matta and members of his team helped preview the Buckeyes' battle with the Badgers.
Big Ten battling
Entering the fourth week of conference play, OSU currently finds itself in a logjam at second place in the league standings, alongside Michigan State and Wisconsin. While every league game remains an important one for the Buckeyes to try to catch Big Ten leaders Michigan and Indiana, Matta said that it's important for his team not to get caught looking ahead.
"There's still so much basketball to be played," Matta said. "That's why if you're fortunate to get a win, you kind of enjoy it momentarily and then it's on to the next one and trying to figure out a way to win that one."
With five teams currently ranked inside the country's top-25, the Big Ten has been as good as advertised this season. OSU point guard Shannon Scott said that playing in a league with so many quality opponents makes it easy to stay focused on the task at hand.
"We knew that nobody was going to be undefeated in the Big Ten and be the champion. That's basically impossible," Scott said. "We've just got to take every game with our A-game and be prepared to play our best game and receive everybody else's best game at the same time."
Battling the Badgers
In Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will be facing a team coming off of a 45-44 win over Minnesota on Saturday. The Badgers have been known for their gritty play and low-scoring games, as seen evident by their average of 67.8 points per game- good for 176th place in the nation.
"The pace is probably a little bit different than what we've gone against thus far," Matta said. "But I think our guys understand that you can look at the scores the last couple of games and say, 'Hey, it's probably going to be a low possession type of game.' But they will run and score and transition."
There's been plenty of bad blood between the Buckeyes and Badgers recently, going back to Wisconsin spoiling OSU's run at an undefeated season in 2011, the Buckeyes' subsequent blowout victory in the season finale, and the Badgers' spoiling William Buford's senior day a season ago. Scott said that it will be important for his team to leave all that's happened between the two teams in the past just there.
"We want to treat them the same that we treat everybody else. We know we gotta play really hard, be ready for their whole game," Scott said. "They have a great coach and great players, so we just gotta be ready for that."
Taking on Traevon
Another tie between the Buckeyes and Badgers comes in the form if Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson- the son of former OSU star Jimmy Jackson. Scott is familiar with the Westerville native from their days on the AAU circuit, and took notice when the younger Jackson hit the game-winning shot in the Badgers' win over the Golden Gophers.
"I played him like a couple times in AAU, not too much. With that game against Minnesota, he hit that last shot, I know he has great confidence in his game," Scott said. "He's playing great basketball right now, so I think guarding him is going to be a great challenge, but I believe that I'll be ready for it. I know how he plays and I just gotta focus on that."
While Matta didn't recruit Jackson, he's certainly taken note of the 6-foot-2, 213 pound guard and the improvement that he's made in his sophomore season.
"He has a high I.Q. of how to play the game of basketball. His body is kind of made- big, strong guard- that they like to have out there," Matta said. "Traevon's playing at a very high level right now ... he's playing good basketball."
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