Bronson Koenig is back.
That much was evident following the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s 71-60 win over Maryland Sunday, in which Koenig played 30 minutes and scored 9 points.
“I didn’t know how many minutes I had played until I looked at the stat sheet after the game,” Koenig said. “I was kind of surprised and surprised at how good I felt.”
Koenig told reporters Tuesday after practice he anticipates being in the starting lineup for the first time in 11 days come Thursday when No. 16 UW (22-5, 11-3 Big Ten) takes on Ohio State at 8 p.m. CT (ESPN).
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Koenig sat out UW’s loss at Michigan last Thursday, then came off the bench Sunday. The time off definitely helped, Koenig said, as his soreness level was lower than it normally is the night and day after a game. But it came at the price of Koenig having to miss the first game of his career.
“I never want to miss a game,” Koenig said. “That was my first time. It was definitely weird watching from the sidelines.”
Now, the Badgers and Koenig will travel to face the Buckeyes, who suffered a 89-66 beating at the Kohl Center Jan. 12. UW led by as much as 32 that night, thanks to Koenig’s 21 points and 5-of-7 display from the 3-point line. Since then, Koenig’s shot hasn’t been as potent, but his performance Sunday was encouraging for him.
“I wasn’t trying to rush my shot in the first half and force anything,” Koenig said. “I was just trying to let the game come to me. And once that first three finally went down it was a big relief. I feel like if I just keep doing what I’m doing and not forcing anything and letting the game come to me, I feel like it is close to starting to fall consistently.”
That game against OSU was also the last time UW has made 10 or more 3-pointers in a game. That night, UW went 12-for-22 from beyond the arc.
After OSU, Wisconsin will then have hit the road again, this time at Michigan State, for the teams’ first matchup of the season.
Here’s a quick look at both teams:
Ohio State (15-13, 5-10)
Key players: G/F ― Jae’sean Tate (14.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg), F ― Marc Loving (12.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Trevor Thompson (10.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg)
Key stat: The Buckeyes rank fifth in the league in shooting percentage at 46 percent from the field.
OSU is limping into this matchup, finding itself on the losing end three games in a row (at Maryland, at MSU, Nebraska). Those losses have come by an average of 6 points.
Tate is a versatile 6-foot-4 forward who leads the Buckeyes in scoring. Loving, standing at 6-foot-8, can also knock down 3-pointers, which he shoots at a 39 percent success rate. The Badgers held Loving to just 5 points in Madison, while Tate managed just 10.
Michigan State (16-11, 8-6)
Key players: G/F ― Miles Bridges (16.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg), F ― Nick Ward (12.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Eron Harris (10.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
Key stat: One of two teams (the other being Rutgers) that shoots worse than the Badgers from the free throw line, the Spartans rank 13th (63.9 percent) compared to Wisconsin’s 12th-ranked clip (66.5 percent). Should the game come down to free throws, it most likely won’t be pretty.
Bridges, a freshman, is widely considered a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft, but an injury that kept him out before conference play hindered his presence. Still, his offensive talent drives the Spartans. Ward is a long, left-handed post player, and his matchup against UW’s Ethan Happ will be one to watch.
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Like OSU, MSU shoots the ball efficiently. The 47.6 percentage mark ranks third in the conference.
MSU’s difficult out-of-conference schedule affected its record early, and they haven’t fully recovered since, lurking in sixth place in the Big Ten. That being said, with Tom Izzo in charge, the Spartans always pose a threat. They are winners of four in their last six. Those losses, at MU and at Purdue, are both places UW has lost this season.
MSU and UW will tip off at 3 p.m. CT on CBS.