Buckeyes Remember Kohl Center Losses
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thad Matta did not seem overly distressed Friday when asked about his 0-5 record at the Kohl Center, but that doesn’t mean Ohio State’s coach has forgotten his team’s struggles in Madison.
“You always remember the losses more than you remember the wins,” said Matta, whose Buckeyes play at Wisconsin Saturday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“I remember year-one, us not blocking out at the end of the first half they tip one in to go down three.”
The Badgers came back to win that game 72-66 behind 29 points and 10 rebounds from Mike Wilkinson. It was the 37th consecutive home victory for Wisconsin, who at the time had never lost a Big Ten home game under Head Coach Bo Ryan.
“It’s home court for them and no one likes to lose at home and they don’t lose too much at home,” said fifth-year senior David Lighty, who is 0-2 in his career at the Kohl Center.
“The environment is a college town, so everyone comes out to the games and are ready to cheer for their team. They’re right on top of you behind the hoops, yelling at you when you’re coming out and on the bench, especially when they’re making shots and feeling good. It gets loud in there. It’s an environment suited for college basketball.”
Lighty was a part of the 2006-07 team that went to the national championship game. Even that team—with Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook—lost in Madison when Jamar Butler misfired on a game-tying three at the buzzer.
“It was a good, tough game and it came down to making plays,” said Lighty, who played seven minutes off the bench in that game as a freshman.
“We missed a three-pointer to send it into overtime. I don’t think anyone hung their head about it or was sad talking about it. We didn’t lose again until the national championship, so obviously we went on to do great things.”
That included beating No. 2-ranked Wisconsin 49-48 in Columbus on their way to 22-straight victories. But Bo Ryan has never lost to the Buckeyes at home, and his team has yet to lose a game in Madison this season.
“Everybody knows their role and they play it to perfection. Everyone takes hold to the system and runs it efficient every year, no matter who’s on the team,” Lighty said.
“Then with the players they have running the system, it just makes it that much better. Just knowing who does what, and just trying to be focused on taking them out of rhythm is something that’s key.”
The Buckeyes failed to do that a year ago, as the Badgers ran them off the court in Madison in the Big Ten opener. Jon Leuer scored 11 points in the second half and Jordan Taylor added 12 points off the bench. Wisconsin brought an Evan Turner-less Ohio State team back to earth with a 65-43 pounding.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot last year with turnovers and bad shooting nights,” said Lighty, who scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in that game.
“Most of that is because of Wisconsin, so just being prepared to take care of the ball, make shots and execute the game plan.”
With a few exceptions, the Buckeyes have been excellent at taking care of the basketball this season, but so has Wisconsin. With Taylor now running the show as the starting point guard, the Badgers (1.81) have the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the Big Ten.
“One thing they do extremely well is they don’t turn the ball over. By not turning the ball over, they’re able to kind of control the tempo of the game,” senior Jon Diebler said.
“Obviously we like to get out and run a lot, but when you play a team and you don’t get a steal and get out and get an easy layup, it’s hard to pick up the tempo. They do a great job of running their system and getting the shot they want. They don’t take bad shots, but we feel very confident with our defense that we can speed them up a little bit.”
Ohio State would like to play at a much faster pace than most of their Big Ten opponents will allow. Games between OSU and Wisconsin have typically been in the 50s and 60s since Ryan and Matta took over their respective programs.
Matta would like to see his team get up and down Saturday, but is confident they can play whatever pace is necessary to win the game as long as they can take care of the basketball and rebound.
“Those things you have to do. Some of the problems we’ve had in games like this are turning the ball over and rebounding,” Matta said.
“Those two things we have to do a great job of tomorrow if it is a low possession game.”
The Buckeyes have the best turnover margin in the Big Ten at +5.71 and also tops in rebounding margin at +5.2 per game this season. They will need to execute in both facets Saturday to come away with the ever elusive win at the Kohl Center.
“This is my last chance, so hopefully we do get one there,” Lighty said.
“It’s just us being able to come in and execute our game plan and not worrying about what’s going on around us.”
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