Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor
With No. 6 Purdue’s 67-65 loss to Iowa on Saturday, the No. 1 Ohio State men’s basketball team clinched the outright Big Ten title — but the team still has some unfinished business to attend to.
When the Buckeyes traveled to Madison, Wis., on Feb. 12, freshman forward Jared Sullinger said via Twitter that Wisconsin fans spat on his face before and after the loss.
On Sunday, the Badgers are taking a trip to Columbus for a rematch on the Buckeyes’ home court.
Badger supporters have a reputation for unruly behavior towards opposing fans, said Tim Collins, a second-year in psychology and the director of the Nuthouse student section for Block “O.”
“(The spitting incident) didn’t surprise me because it’s Wisconsin fans,” Collins told The Lantern. “But, then again, it does because you would like to think that it wouldn’t happen.”
Collins was in attendance to watch the undefeated Buckeyes suffer their first loss of the season, and said that his experience in Wisconsin’s student section was enough to ensure he wouldn’t go back to the Kohl Center for another basketball game.
“I think that from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, they have a history if you talk to any Big Ten school,” Collins said. “We got the ‘a–hole’ chant and people up in our faces swearing at us. … Not only do I not have any desire to go back there and deal with that, it just doesn’t surprise me that that’s how their students reacted.”
Collins said Block “O” and the Nuthouse work to be “classy” in dealing with opposing fans. He said members have offered T-shirts to USC and Michigan fans sitting in the Buckeye student section for football games.
Collins also said the Big Ten works with each school’s athletic program to attempt to ensure its fans’ behavior is appropriate. He said he has open communication with OSU’s athletic program during games to make sure the Nuthouse is acting accordingly.
But don’t ask the OSU players if anything that happened off the court in Madison has affected them. The team has been mum on the spitting incident.
“It’s another basketball game for me,” fifth-year senior forward David Lighty said. “I’m an old guy now. It’s like clockwork; it keeps going.
“We’ve been through those things before. All that other stuff is behind us now.”
Collins and the Nuthouse have been leading the “Gray Out the Schott” campaign, which asks all those who plan to attend the game Sunday to wear gray and avoid wearing red, Wisconsin’s primary color.
In an e-mail sent to media outlets throughout the Columbus area, Collins mentioned that students would be receiving gray “Rah Rags” aimed to take a jab at Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, and the statements he made following his team’s win against the Buckeyes.
“We won the game,” Ryan said. “Deal with it.”
In turn, the rags issued by Homage will say, “Deal with it.”
Many Buckeye fans took offense to Ryan’s postgame words and that neither Wisconsin nor the Big Ten took action regarding the spitting allegations.
OSU coach Thad Matta said the words didn’t bother him or his players, and that Ryan reached out to him following the game to clarify his statement.
“Coach Ryan tried to call me on Monday morning (following the game). I didn’t know it was him,” Matta said. “Honestly, we’re probably making more out of that than it really was.”
Per usual, Matta and his team are approaching Sunday’s game like any other, despite the conceived distractions from outside the program. Not even an emotional Senior Day can warrant a different attitude from OSU’s coach of seven years.
“I’ve seen no changes, no different behaviors,” Matta said. “Nobody said anything about Senior Day. … They’ve been emotionless and stable.”