What to know about Wisconsin men's basketball's game at Ohio State (2023)

Who's going to be more desperate for a victory?

That's one of the things to watch Thursday when the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team plays at Ohio State.

Both teams have lost six of their last seven games to slide outside of the projected NCAA Tournament bracket. The Buckeyes' skid actually extends one more game to 1-7.

"We've got to play better," Badgers coach Greg Gard said. "We've got to play better offensively, play better defensively. I don't think it's any secret. It hasn't been for a lack of effort."

The Badgers got back to work Tuesday after being required to take off Sunday and Monday because of NCAA rules in the wake of playing three games in six days. Gard said they're still on the same page despite one of the toughest stretches of results that the team has endured in the last five seasons.

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"You have to be able to hold each other accountable, but you're not putting each other down," he said. "So there's not blaming going on. And sometimes locker rooms can fracture when that happens. You start blaming everybody and it's everybody's fault but mine.

"That hasn't been the case with this group. This group has really been united and understands all of us can help make us better and that's good to see because we've always had good leaders here."

Here's what to know about Thursday's game, both teams' projected starting lineups and three more things to watch.

The basics

What: Wisconsin (12-8, 4-6 Big Ten) at Ohio State (11-10, 3-7)

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio

TV: FS1 with Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson

Radio: 1310 AM and 101.5 FM with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Last meeting: Brad Davison scored 25 points and the Badgers extended their winning streak to five games with a 78-68 victory at the Kohl Center on Jan. 13, 2022.


Fast fact: The Badgers are the only Big Ten team averaging fewer than two blocked shots defensively in conference play (1.4).

Coach: Greg Gard, 156-86, in his eighth season at UW

Probable starters

Steven Crowl7-0245Jr.Center12.3
Connor Essegian6-4185Fr.Guard10.5
Chucky Hepburn6-2205So.Guard12.3
Tyler Wahl6-9225Sr.Forward12.6
Max Klesmit6-3200Jr.Guard7.1

Key rotational players

Jordan Davis6-4200Jr.Guard6.1
Isaac Lindsey6-4185So.Guard1.4
Carter Gilmore6-7225Jr.Forward3.4
Markus Ilver6-8215So.Forward1.7

Player to watch: Wahl scored 17 points total over his first four games against Ohio State before he had 20 last January. It was the only time in the last two seasons that he has made more than one 3-pointer.

Ohio State

Fast fact: The Buckeyes are tied for first at 39.9% on 3-pointers in Big Ten games but were just 5 of 19 in an 86-70 loss at Indiana on Saturday.

Coach: Chris Holtmann, 118-66 in his sixth season at Ohio State, 232-151 in his 12th season overall

Probable starters

Brice Sensabaugh6-6235Fr.Forward17.6
Zed Key6-8255Jr.Forward11.9
Sean McNeil6-4205Gr.Guard9.8
Justice Sueing6-6210R-Sr.Forward12.6
Bruce Thornton6-2215Fr.Guard8.5

Key rotational players

Roddy Gayle Jr.6-4205Fr.Guard4.0
Isaac Likekele6-5215Gr.Guard3.8
Felix Okpara6-11220Fr.Center3.6
Tanner Holden6-6200Sr.Guard4.2

Player to watch: Sensabaugh has scored at least 20 points in five of his last eight games. He had a double-double in three straight.

3 things to watch

Pair of thieves

The Badgers and the Buckeyes both rank among the teams that displace the ball from opponents the most. UW ranks third in Big Ten games with an average of 6.2 steals per game and Ohio State is fourth at 6.0.

Hepburn leads UW and is fourth in the conference with 2.0 steals per game and Klesmit has 1.9 to rank sixth. Ohio State's thievery is more spread out, with Thornton averaging 1.1 per game.

The Badgers had the ball stolen only twice against Illinois on Saturday, the first time the total was under three in eight January games.

Road woes

Ohio State has played five of its last seven games on the road. The Badgers are approaching the fourth game of a seven-game stretch that contains only two home games.

The road hasn't been kind to either side. The Buckeyes have lost five straight away from home. UW has lost four straight road games; the last time that happened it preceded an eight-game winning streak that delivered a share of the 2020 Big Ten championship.

The Badgers haven't lost more than four straight road games since dropping six in a row in the 2017-18 season, when they finished 15-18.

Close challenges

UW made its mark early in the season by winning close games: It's 7-4 in contests decided by five points or fewer.

The Buckeyes haven't been on the winning side of tight games down the stretch as often. They defeated Rutgers 67-66 on Dec. 8 but have lost five straight games that have ended with a margin of five or less.

A five-game losing streak included defeats by two points to Purdue, three to Minnesota, four to Rutgers and three to Nebraska.

Fans in panic mode after Wisconsin men's basketball's loss to Illinois

Alternate approach

No injury excuses for this one. Defense continues to be really good. I'll take the Nate Oats approach and keep Wahl in the game with two fouls. Players rarely foul out.

— Ryan Pohle (@RyanPohle) January 28, 2023

Help wanted

Wisconsin has literally no one who can attack the rim and finish with contact going toward the rim. That's a huge problem. Lack of physicality hurts on rebounds too.

And let's cool it on "Gard is a great playcaller" language: Ilver and Gilmore took the last ~7 shots of the half.

— Nick P Bassill (@NickPBassill) January 28, 2023

Patiently waiting

Looking forward to spring football

— Fred Ehle (@FredEhle) January 28, 2023

Straight to the point


— Chris Cesar (@Cesar_Chris) January 28, 2023

They are who they are

I don’t know why we should expect anything different; Only one single player on the roster even remotely close to a 4* talent. You have 3* talent, essentially 2 walk-ons getting 10-15 minutes a game, you’re relying on transfer from Wofford, and no depth.

— Ron (@RonFiki) January 28, 2023

Bottoming out

This team is on the fast track to not even make the NIT

— Andrew Zimdars (@andrew_zimdars) January 28, 2023

Join the club


— Mark Wolfgram (@markwwolfgram) January 28, 2023

Enough is enough

Too many to say here. I'm just not sure if this team is good at any one thing. All I know is something needs to change.

— Thömas A. Miller (@UWBone24) January 28, 2023

Could've been worse

Should have probably lost by 30, so I’d say the Badgers got lucky.

— Eric Eichelt (@EricEichelt) January 28, 2023

Search far and wide

We have no player that scares defenses recruiting needs to get better! There are very good players outside of MN WI and IL! #needathletes

— Scott Davis (@chilid19) January 28, 2023

Take the first step

time to accept this isn’t a tournament team

— erick morelos (@emorelos17) January 28, 2023

Brain drain

Showed some life in early H2 but this is still an extremely limited team from a talent and athleticism stand point and that showed. Gard looks like he’s run out of ideas of how to fix this.

— Mark Wolfgram (@markwwolfgram) January 28, 2023

Nothing to see here


— Jon Bell (@KosherCoach) January 28, 2023

Laughter's the best medicine


— Jodi Ralston (@jralston29) January 28, 2023

You're not alone

Surprised they scored 50.

— Bill Vogel (@BillVogel16) January 28, 2023

Who knew?

I thought they were better than this…

— John Gehlhaart (@gehlly62) January 28, 2023

Look away

Don’t even want to watch anymore. It’s just not fun. There are so many ins and outs with the players that I don’t even know who is on the floor. Why don’t more players just head to the rim and at least try and get fouled! Course they can’t make free throws either.

— Mary Korn Erickson (@sixtiesfan) January 28, 2023

Wandering around

We look lost out there

— Ben Cable (@B3N_CABL3) January 28, 2023

Apples and oranges

No surprise, mediocre-talented teams don't go far anyway. Maybe a HC change for this
🏀 team, like the 🏈 team had to do. This team NEEDS an infusion of 4⭐️ & 5⭐️ players instead of "mediocre" and "so/so" players.

— Kevin Frick (@KevinFrick12) January 28, 2023

Out of sync

Something’s not quite right with the chemistry with these guys.

— Duane Matz (@duanematz) January 28, 2023

Understandably so


— Richard Johnson (@bigandrichard00) January 28, 2023

Fair enough

Boring and winning works.
Boring and losing is a bad combo.

— Mike N (@MikeNP40) January 28, 2023



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Todd D. Milewski | Wisconsin State Journal

Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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