Wisconsin coach Greg Gard would have a different response if the home crowd on Saturday started filing out early because of a blowout by the visiting team.
That could mean the No. 22 Badgers (8-1, 1-0 Big Ten) were doing something right in their matchup against No. 21 Ohio State (7-2, 1-0) in Columbus, Ohio.
The Badgers enter the game off a 64-59 home victory against Indiana on Wednesday. They trailed the Hoosiers by as many as 22 points until cutting the deficit to 17 at halftime.
“Hopefully nobody left earlier,” Gard said. “If they did, that’ll teach them to give up on this team.”
The Buckeyes didn’t need a spectacular comeback in an 85-74 win against Towson on Wednesday. Like the Badgers, however, they struggled to get going.
Ohio State held a 33-32 halftime lead, and the score was tied at 43 early in the second half.
“I think they’re as good as any mid-major team we’ve played here in our four years,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said of Towson. “We’ve got some things we’ve got to work on, but I give our guys credit. I thought we played with more force and energy in the second half, and we needed to.”
Ohio State received a team-high 18 points from Kyle Young.
The fifth-year senior forward worked on his outside game in the offseason, and the results are showing. He made both 3-point attempts versus Towson and is 6-for-6 behind the arc in the past two games.
“It’s been feeling good,” Young said of his shooting. “It helps when you’ve got teammates that believe in you. Getting back into this rhythm has been nice. I’m going to keep working on it, keep getting reps up.”
While Young drew praise from Holtmann, All-American candidate E.J. Liddell did not despite his 15 points. Liddell also had a career-worst seven turnovers.
“He’s got to turn it over less,” Holtmann said. “He’s got to take better care of the ball. The ball’s in his hands a lot. He’s got to be more sure with it, strong with it. It gets knocked loose from his hands too much. He’s got to get better in that area.”
Holtmann knows Liddell must step up as the competition does. After facing the Badgers, the Buckeyes play No. 10 Kentucky in Las Vegas on Dec. 18.
Wisconsin guard Brad Davison said the win against the Hoosiers is a sign the Badgers will be ready for the remainder of the rugged Big Ten slate.
“That’s why you schedule these tough games in November and December, so you can get some experience for March,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job of facing really tough competition for preparing for those moments.”
Gard said Badgers lost their way against the Hoosiers before regaining their identity.
“We got back to being ourselves the second half,” he said. “I’m not sure who that team was in the first half. I asked them to have the original team that I’d seen for the first eight games.”
–Field Level Media