Despite his team’s recent success, coach Thad Matta knows Ohio State’s return to the AP poll could be a short one if there isn’t some improvement from its last game.
The No. 24 Buckeyes try for a fifth straight victory while looking to snap a six-game road losing streak to surging Big Ten rival Wisconsin on Saturday night.
While consecutive victories over ranked opponents has Ohio State (17-5, 7-4) tied for third in the Big Ten, Matta hopes his squad can put forth a complete effort in the next challenge.
“We want to be a better team when we take the floor Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin, than we were against Minnesota,” Matta said after the Buckeyes shot 42.3 percent in a 64-58 home win over the then-No. 19 Golden Gophers last Saturday.
Ohio State is better than that effort, shooting a Big Ten-leading 47.9 percent. The Buckeyes made 60.1 percent of their shots in the previous three games, which included an 80-72 overtime home win over then-No. 12 Purdue on Feb. 3.
The Buckeyes likely need to regain that touch in order to claim their first victory at the Kohl Center since a 53-51 win on Jan. 13, 2000. Even the 2007 national runner-up team failed to win in Madison, falling 72-69 to the then-No. 3 Badgers in the Buckeyes’ most recent trip there.
Wisconsin won 58-53 on Feb. 24 in Columbus, Ohio, in the teams’ only meeting last season.
It doesn’t get easier for Ohio State now that Wisconsin (15-9, 6-6) has won three in a row after a six-game losing streak.
The Buckeyes, though, are confident after returning to the poll since ranking as high as No. 15 during a four-week stay in December.
“We had a couple of bumps and bruises down the road but we finally got together and we’re clicking,” said sophomore Evan Turner, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Minnesota. “Everybody’s contributing.”
A candidate for Big Ten player of the year, Turner is third in the conference in both scoring (17.0) and rebounding (7.5). He’s averaged 24.3 points and 10.6 boards in his last three games.
Turner, though, was held to four points as the Buckeyes shot 37.0 percent against the Badgers last season.
Another win over a ranked team would help Wisconsin’s questionable NCAA tournament resume. The Badgers beat then-No. 23 Illinois 63-50 on Feb. 5, won by 10 at Penn State on Sunday and 69-52 over Iowa on Wednesday.
Wisconsin is allowing 48.7 points and holding opponents to 19.6 percent shooting from 3-point range in its last three games after giving up 68.3 points during the recent skid.
Joe Krabbenhoft scored 16 points and Marcus Landry recorded the 1,000th of his career as the Badgers shot 53.1 percent from the field—58.3 from beyond the arc (7-for-12)—against Iowa.
“We need to keep that going for the game on Saturday,” said guard Jason Bohannon, who had 16 points versus Ohio State last season.
Landry, averaging a team-leading 12.8 points, was held to nine against Iowa and has scored 26 in four career games versus Ohio State.