CHICAGO -- During the Big Ten season, No. 22 Wisconsin dropped games to unranked Iowa on the road and Purdue at home. The Badgers squandered a second half lead to Minnesota, eventually falling in overtime and also fell to then No. 13 Michigan State at home by just two points.
Wisconsin advanced to their first Big Ten Tournament title game since 2008.
Although Wisconsin managed yet another top four finish in the Big Ten standings under Head Coach Bo Ryan, the Badgers finished just two games back of Indiana for the regular season Big Ten title.
Sunday, Wisconsin will get another chance at the conference title. After knocking off No. 6 Michigan and No. 3 Indiana respectively in the Big Ten Tournament, the Badgers will play for the Big Ten Tournament Championship against No. 10 Ohio State.
"Again, it's nice to be able to play in a championship game," Ryan said following Wisconsin's 68-56 win over the Hoosiers. "I know our guys are looking forward to that, so are we, and we'll see what happens here in the next game."
The two teams split the regular season series. The Buckeyes edged the Badgers 58-49 in Columbus, while Wisconsin stomped Ohio State 71-49 in Madison just one month ago today.
Wisconsin's blowout win over Ohio State served as a turning point for the Buckeyes, who haven't lost a game since. Ohio State has won seven-straight, including wins over No. 2 Indiana and two wins over No.4/8 Michigan State.
"We've got to be ready from the tip off against them, because last game we weren't kind of ready," said Junior Forward Deshaun Thomas. "But now we've got to be ready and focused because we know Wisconsin is going to hold that ball and try to run the clock to the end. Every possession is a key, and we've got to be focusing on that."
Thomas leads the Buckeyes averaging 19.6 points per game. In two meetings versus Wisconsin this season, Thomas has upped that average to 21.5 points per game.
Wisconsin is playing in their first Big Ten Tournament Championship Game since 2008.
Evans is averaging 14 points per game through two games in the tournament.
2 Players to Watch
Ohio State Junior Forward Deshaun Thomas
Thomas leads Ohio State with 17.5 points per game in the first two outings in the 2013 Big Ten Tournament. He also leads the Buckeyes with 8.0 rebounds a contest. The junior averaged 21.5 points per game against the Badgers this season.
Wisconsin Senior Forward Ryan Evans
Evans has elevated his play during the 2013 Big Ten Tournament, playing the best basketball of his career. Through two games in the tournament, Evans is averaging 14 points per game, along with seven rebounds and five assists per outing.
4 Keys to the Game
1. Slow down Thomas
In the first meeting versus Ohio State, Deshaun Thomas got off to a fast start and dominated the game from start to finish, dropping 25 points on the Badgers. In the second meeting, Thomas was slowed to 8-17 shooting.
Thomas is averaging 17.5 ppg in the tournament, and 21.5 ppg against the Badgers this season.
2. Rubber match at PG
After struggling against Aaron Craft in their first meeting, Traevon Jackson won the individual battle the second time around. In February, Craft was held to four points on 2-9 shooting and distributed just one assist. Jackson however, scored 10 points, dished out four assists, and controlled the second half.
3. Coach of the Year
After being named the 2013 Coach of the Year in the Big Ten, Bo Ryan has coached two outstanding games in the Big Ten Tournament. Ryan is 15-9 against Ohio State in his career, including 11-8 against Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta. However, Matt has an outstanding record in the month of March, going 49-12, the fourth best winning percentage (.803) in the nation. Who wins the coaching matchup Sunday?
4. Can Evans stay hot?
Ryan Evans has dictated the flow and the outcome of Wisconsin's two wins in the Big Ten Tournament. He'll likely draw the matchup of Deshaun Thomas on offense. In two games against Ohio State, Evans has scored a total of 11 points on 5-17 shooting, in large part to Thomas' defense.
7 Notable Stats
- Ohio State is 21-9 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament.
Ryan is 11-8 all-time versus Thad Matta.
- Wisconsin is 17-13 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament.
- The Buckeyes have won 17 of their last 21 Big Ten Tournament games.
- The Badgers are 7-5 against teams in the AP Top 25 this season, with all seven wins coming against teams ranked in the top 15.
- Ohio State leads 84-67 in the all-time series with the Badgers. The teams have met four times on neutral courts with Ohio State going 3-1 in those games.
- Wisconsin is 2-2 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, with wins coming in 2004 and 2008.
- Ohio State is 4-4 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, winning the event in 2002, 2007, 2010, and 2011.
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