February 16, 2013

Three-point play: Wisconsin

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Less than 72 hours removed from its 69-59 win over Northwestern on Thursday, the No. 13 Ohio State men's basketball team (18-6, 8-4) will return to the court on Sunday, when they hit the road for a 1 p.m. tipoff with Wisconsin (17-8, 8-4). On Friday, Thad Matta and Buckeyes' forward Deshaun Thomas met with the media to preview tomorrow's battle with the Badgers.

Looking for the big one

While Ohio State's resume for the season already includes signature wins over Michigan and Wisconsin, both of those victories came within the friendly confines of the Schottenstein Center. A big road win could go a long way for the Buckeyes' seeding come Selection Sunday, but Matta knows that those can be hard to come by in the Big Ten.

"That's something that's a lot easier said than done, in terms of, number one, just the competitive nature of how this league is," Matta said. "Every game is in as challenging of an environment as it can be."

Having been a part of OSU teams that have picked up signature wins on the road over the course of the past two season, Thomas knows just what a win in Madison could mean to the Buckeyes on Sunday.

"It ignites everybody and gives us confidence in our team. It'd be a big boost for us," Thomas said. "If we get this big road win, it'd be good for us and the program."

Watching Wisconsin

Winning in Wisconsin could be especially hard, given that the Badgers are yet to have lost on their home floor in Big Ten play this season. Having beaten Wisconsin last season inside the Kohl Center, Thomas said that the Badgers will be even more focused on defending their home turf.

"In this league, you've got to protect your home court, and that's what they did," Thomas said of Wisconsin. "Last year, we won there, and we haven't won there in a while. So we know they're going to have that momentum last year and think about that .. we're going to have to match their intensity."

Like the Buckeyes' last opponent, the Badgers are known for milking the shot clock and grinding out low-scoring victories. While Matta said that Wisconsin will also take advantage of their opportunities, he also knows that patience will be at a premium for his team on Sunday.

"They will strike you quick. They'll shoot threes, they'll push you in transition. To play two teams that are considered 'slow in pace' back-to-back, hopefully it's a good thing," Matta said. "There's no doubt, in terms of the focus, the concentration that you have to have, it has to be at an all-time high in games like this."

Three-point problems

With the Buckeyes' past three opponents having combined for 32 made three-point attempts against them, Matta joked on Wednesday that his team has been a get well card for opposing teams' long-distance woes. Unable to pinpoint a problem in his team's defense, the OSU coach knows that the Buckeyes will have to improve on their efforts as soon as Sunday.

"I don't know exactly what it is: are we over helping? Are we over-rotating? Are we not rotating? Probably all of the above," Matta said. "But we have to do a better job at guarding the three-point line. It's going to be huge in Sunday's game."

Thomas said that it's important for the Buckeyes to establish that they can stop the three-point shot, otherwise more and more teams will attempt to beat OSU from long range.

"We've gotta start off the game with energy. We knew Northwestern was going to chuck up threes. But we didn't get out there," Thomas said. "Teams are figuring out that if Ohio State's not going to stop us on the three-point line, let's see if we cane beat them there. We just need to get out there and close out real hard and chase the screens."


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