February 11, 2011

Ready to repeat upset of No.1 Ohio State

MADISON - Watching from the packed and highly energized stands at Camp Randall Stadium, one play in particular jumped out at Keaton Nankivil during the Oct. 16 football game between No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.

It's a play that stood out to everyone else, too, as David Gilreath's 97-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff set the tone for the Badgers' 31-18 upset and was voted play of the year by UW fans.

"Gilreath returning the kickoff, to me shows right off the bat they're ready to play," Nankivil said. "They're not going to back down from anybody and they kind of made that first move. Secondly, the intensity throughout the entire game. I don't think Wisconsin in that game really let up or gave Ohio State a chance to keep chipping away at it."

Nankivil was joined at that memorable victory by each of his teammates, and they all got a great lesson in stepping up to a challenge.

When they host No. 1 Ohio State tomorrow at the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin basketball team will have a chance to show its ability to rise to the occasion as well.

To be successful, they'll likely need to do the two things that most impressed Nankivil about the football team in that upset.

"In a little different fashion," Nankivil said. "But those are two important things to what we can do against Ohio State as far as hopefully making that first move and hopefully keeping the intensity high. I think those are two things that would really help us out."

Of course, head coach Bo Ryan's players are no strangers to big games, either. Just last season, Wisconsin - unranked at the time - knocked off No. 6 Duke, handing the Blue Devils their first-ever loss in the 10-year history of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

In that game, much like the football team did against Ohio State in October, the Badgers jumped out to a hot start with an early 19-9 lead and never let up. In fact, UW never trailed against Duke en route to the thrilling 73-69 victory.

For senior forward Jon Leuer, that hot start is exactly what sticks out in his mind about the big nonconference victory.

"We got off to a great start and we were able to knock some shots down early," Leuer said. "Against a team like Ohio State, you can't get in a hole, otherwise it's tough to dig your way out. That's the main thing is just to get off to a good start. But if you don't, you have to be able to handle that adversity and climb back from it."

Typically, the mentality heading into a big game such as Saturday's is one of treating it like any other game. Ryan's team does its best to maintain the same approach before and after each game, so as to avoid getting to high on any win and too low and any loss.

That being the case, the Badgers still recognize the opportunity presented by the matchup against the top-ranked team in the nation.

"Any time you get the No. 1 that's kind of a once in a career type of thing," junior guard Jordan Taylor said. "I don't think a lot of guys get to play against the No. 1 team in the country, especially at home. I expect it to be fun, and loud, and we'll be ready to go."

With the opportunity comes the challenge, and the Buckeyes certainly provide a formidable one for Wisconsin.

In order to come away with the big victory, the Badgers will need to effectively limit freshman Jared Sullinger, a national player of the year candidate, while being sure not to forget about guys like William Buford, Aaron Craft, David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

Even if they can do all that, things will not come easily on the offensive end, either. Ohio State's length and athleticism could cause plenty of problems for Wisconsin.

And finally, there's that unbeatable factor, as OSU enters the matchup with a flawless 24-0 record. But that should only serve to further motivate the Badgers.

"Nobody else has been able to beat them, and we'd be the only team to have proven that we can beat them," Leuer said. "So there's a little extra incentive, but any time you step on the court you have the same motivations. You're just hungry and you want to win, and that's how we're going to play."

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