Lepay: Badgers 'believe they can play with' 3rd-ranked Ohio State
Jordan Taylor. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Next game: Saturday, Feb. 4 vs. Ohio State
Continuing coverage at 12:00 p.m. on Newsradio 620 WTMJ
MADISON - For the second consecutive year, the Wisconsin Badgers host a Top 5 Ohio State Buckeyes in a Top 25 showdown.
If last year's result and the Badgers' penchant for resiliency and defense mean anything, Wisconsin fans have reason for hopes of a victory party on the Kohl Center floor on Saturday afternoon.
"On paper, this is going to be a tough one, but I just think with the way the Badgers are playing right now, they believe they can play with them if not beat them tomorrow," said Voice of the Badgers Matt Lepay on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News."
"They don't win pretty, but they find ways to win. Tomorrow, as good as Ohio State is, the Badgers are going to have to play their best game of the year."
Their best game of the year doesn't necessarily mean a great shooting night for Wisconsin, but Lepay says it would be predicated by how well the Badgers defend superstar Jared Sullinger and an Ohio State offense that averages 77 points per game and more than 49% shooting from the field.
"In my opinion, what gives them a chance most nights is that they defend well," said Lepay.
"They're hard to score against. Their field goal percentage defense is very good. They protect the ball. They only give up nine turnovers per game. They had a ridiculous rate last year, a record-setting rate of protecting the ball a year ago. They may very well do the same this season. To me, if a Wisconsin team can shoot in that 43%, 44%, this team, this year...they're going to win most of the time."
Wisconsin's offense is not known for reaching the shooting prowess of their Ohio State counterparts on a consistent basis, and Lepay describes the see-saw pattern when it comes to the Badgers' offensive efficiency.
"To an extent, it's been up and down," explained Lepay.
"They've had a couple of games where they've shot it well, and they've had a couple others where they've shot less than 40% and still found a way. I think, in talking with a couple players, they're sense is that even when the shots aren't falling, they'll still let it fly. They're going to try not to be tentative on the offensive end."
Another key for Wisconsin is how well the team goes beyond Jordan Taylor on the offensive end - something they may need to defeat America's 3rd-ranked college basketball program.
"One of the big storylines of the season was how much help Jordan Taylor was going to get," said Lepay.
"I think opposing teams are still testing Wisconsin's ability to help Taylor."
Lepay cited how the Badgers' second and third-best scorer have improved their performance this season.
"Jared Berggren, of late, has raised the level of his play, not just in terms of scoring, but he's blocking a lot of shots and altering others. (Ryan) Evans, in particular, against Indiana was a pretty good example of how resilient he can be. He was having a rough night about 80% of the game. Down the stretch, he really played well, made pressure free throws and had that ability to forget things...when he's going through a tough stretch."