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Ohio St.-Wisconsin Preview

AP - Sports

Ohio State has unhappy memories from its visit to Madison last season. In fact, it has been more than a decade since it left Wisconsin with a win.

With first place in the Big Ten on the line, the third-ranked Buckeyes will try to end a nine-game road losing streak to the No. 19 Badgers on Saturday.

Ohio State (19-3, 7-2) hasn't picked up a win in Madison since 2000 even though it has been ranked for the last five visits, including twice as a member of the top 5. Five of the last six meetings there have been decided by six points or fewer.

Last season's loss was particularly painful. The Buckeyes were 24-0, the top-ranked team in the country and ahead by 15 points in the second half before the Badgers rallied for a 71-67 victory. Jordan Taylor scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, including eight straight during a 15-0 run that brought the Badgers back in the game.

"I don't drive to work in the morning saying, 'This is the biggest game of the year. We have to do this ...'" Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. "It's more like, 'Hey, we're playing a great basketball team, a top-20 team.'"

Though he seemed to downplay the matchup, he did eventually concede, "The fact that we haven't won there as a program, it does make you want to definitely win."

Ohio State will look for a measure of revenge and try to create some additional cushion atop the conference standings. The Buckeyes are a half-game up on Wisconsin (18-5, 7-3) and No. 23 Michigan, having played one fewer game, and one game ahead of No. 9 Michigan State.

"We're playing for the whole conference, in a way," Taylor said. "It's a big game. I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't. But we're going to approach it just like any other game."

Though Wisconsin is the hotter team, having won six straight, Ohio State has been more dominant of late. The Buckeyes have followed a loss at Illinois on Jan. 10 with four straight wins by at least 15 points apiece.

They've been particularly good on defense, holding their last three opponents to an average of 49.3 points on 32.3 percent shooting. They limited Michigan to 35.8 percent in a 64-49 win Sunday as sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 17 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.

Saturday figures to be another low-scoring affair against the Badgers, who rank first in Division I in scoring defense, giving up 49.5 points per game. The Buckeyes rank seventh, allowing 55.6.

"We know what Ohio State has, we know what they bring," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "Things are going to really have to jell to get a team like that."

As impressive as Ryan's team is defensively, it could face a big challenge from Jared Sullinger. The Big Ten's fourth-leading scorer is averaging 17.1 points, although the sophomore forward has been held below that mark in three of his last four games.

Sullinger averaged 20.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in two games against the Badgers last season. After the game in Madison, he accused a fan of spitting on him, although Wisconsin officials could find no evidence.

While Ohio State has been near the top of the Big Ten standings most of the season, Wisconsin has climbed back into the conference race with its six-game win streak following a three-game skid. The Badgers held on for a 52-46 win at Penn State on Tuesday despite shooting 35.4 percent, the second straight game they were held below 40.0.

Taylor scored 18 points, including 13 of his team's final 17. However, he was 4 of 12 from the field and is shooting 34.1 percent in the last three games.

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