Back in form, No. 10 Wisconsin hosts No. 15 Ohio State
Wisconsin trailing anyone, even Big Ten Conference leader Michigan, by 40 points in the second half qualifies as stunning.
What the Badgers have done since Jan. 12, when the Wolverines led 69-29 in an attention-getting 77-54 blowout, is not.
Getting back to its roots of a tough defense and a patient offense, No. 10 Wisconsin has allowed 54 and 52 points, respectively, in conference wins over Rutgers and Northwestern since the Michigan game. The Badgers aim to put the clamps on 15th-ranked Ohio State in another Big Ten clash Saturday in Madison.
Wisconsin (12-3, 6-2) might have played its best defensive half of the season in its victory Wednesday night against Northwestern, limiting the Wildcats to 18 points in the second half.
"I thought we did a better job of stopping the ball and not letting them get into the paint," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "I thought the first half, I didn't think we executed well enough in some of the ball screen situations.
"Second half, we were better. We talked about some of those things at halftime. The second 20, I thought we were more aggressive in the ball screens and eliminated some of that dribble penetration."
The Badgers also got balanced scoring against Northwestern, including 14 points from an unexpected source, Tyler Wahl. He entered the night averaging just 4.9. D'Mitrik Trice (12 points), Brad Davison (11) and Micah Potter (10) also finished in double digits.
Trice is the team's top scorer at 14.8 points per game and its assists leader at 3.7. Potter is the only other player averaging in double figures with 12.1 ppg and also pulls in a team-high 6.7 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Ohio State (11-4, 5-4) saw a three-game winning streak end Tuesday night when Purdue's Jaden Ivey drilled a stepback 3-pointer with five seconds to secure a 67-65 decision in Columbus.
The Buckeyes led by five points with 2:08 left after Justin Ahrens drained their 14th 3-pointer of the game but didn't manage a field goal for the game's remainder. Ohio State hit just 37.7 percent from the field despite going 14-of-35 on 3-pointers and was outrebounded 38-30.
"Give Purdue credit; I thought they made a few more plays and got to a few more loose balls than we did," Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said. "It was a super-physical game. We have to be tougher with the ball in a game like this. That's my fault."
Duane Washington did his part for Ohio State, hitting six 3-pointers and scoring a game-high 21 points while dishing out six assists. But E.J. Liddell, who lit up Illinois center Kofi Cockburn for 26 points in an 87-81 victory on Jan. 16, managed just seven shots and 11 points against the Boilermakers.
Washington has emerged as the team's top threat on offense, firing in 15.7 ppg and hitting 39.3 percent of his 3-pointers. Liddell is scoring 14.1 ppg and averaging a team-high 6.8 rebounds.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 21, 2021