by Tomas Lopez
The Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers are part of a five-team logjam at the top of the Big Ten standings. The No. 11 Buckeyes host the Badgers on Tuesday and both teams are one game behind co-leaders Michigan and Indiana. Michigan State is in third place, a half-game off the pace.
The Badgers started 4-0 in conference play and lost back-to-back games before edging Minnesota 45-44 on Saturday in one of those contests that displayed the fierceness of the league. "I think it's just great that we have this type of competition night-in and night-out," senior forward Ryan Evans said. "Every night is a memory in this conference. You've got to be prepared to play every night." The Buckeyes have won back-to-back outings and are 11-1 at home.
Wisconsin Badgers (14-6): Tough defense is a program staple and the Badgers have held consecutive opponents to less than 50 points for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign. Wisconsin held Michigan State to a season-low 49 points and limited Minnesota to its season-worst output. Sophomore point guard Traevon Jackson was the unlikely offensive hero when he hit the decisive basket with four seconds left in the victory over the Golden Gophers. "I don't have any fear," Jackson said afterward. "You've got to want the ball and to help this team out. Every guy on our team wants the ball at the end of the game." Jackson averages 5.8 points and is shooting only 34.8 percent. Senior center Jared Berggren averages a team-best 12 points.
Ohio State Buckeyes (15-4): Junior forward Deshaun Thomas leads the Big Ten in scoring at 20 points per game but nearly failed to score in double digits for the first time all season during Saturday's 65-51 victory over Penn State. Thomas struggled through a 4-of-13 shooting performance and had 11 points. Sophomore forward Sam Thompson picked up the slack by scoring 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Thompson averages 7.5 points. "I really did the easy part," Thompson said. "Guys found me, I was wide open, and I just knocked down some shots." Junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. (10.2) joins Thomas as Ohio State's only double-figure scorers.
1. The teams split two meetings last season with each winning on the road.
2. Thomas needs five points to pass former teammate Jared Sullinger (1,281 points from 2010-12) for 29th-place on Ohio State's all-time scoring list.
3. Wisconsin freshman F Sam Dekker has scored in double digits 11 times.
NCAA Basketball Prediction: Ohio State 57, Wisconsin 55.
deshaun thomas - jared berggren - jared sullinger - lenzelle smith jr - ohio state buckeyes - sam dekker - sam thompson - traevon jackson - wisconsin badgers