Ohio State arrived in Madison, Wisconsin to try to continue their unbeaten streak on the season. Unfortunately, the Badgers had other ideas as they knocked off the only remaining unbeaten 71-67. Wisconsin came back from 15 down midway through the 2nd half to secure the victory over the unbeaten Buckeyes. Sullinger’s 19 points and 12 rebounds earned him his 11th double double on the season, but it was simply not enough.
The Buckeyes opened the game by attacking the paint, finding success with Dallas Lauderdale under the basket. Unfortunately, there was no success to be found by David Lighty with his short range jumpers early. A couple of early misses cost the Buckeyes some possessions in the early going that allowed Wisconsin to jump out to a quick lead. Not surprisingly, it was Wisconsin’s distance shooting that was doing the most damage, hitting a couple of three pointers to help them take a 6 point lead.
Leuer was a big challenge to Sullinger’s defense today. Used to matching up against traditional post players, Sullinger was forced to play Leuer out beyond the paint and even into three point range. The Buckeyes helped to alleviate the problem by running some zone defense to keep Sullinger from playing too far out of position too often. When he would play out of position, Wisconsin would find an easy three point look against him, making it a bad defensive assignment to maintain.
Matta used the first time out particularly effectively. Bringing Aaron Craft out into the game, and actively trying to change the pace of the game seemed to rebalance the Buckeyes. The change allowed them to start to close the gap and take back some of the momentum built by the Badgers.
Craft’s inclusion in the game made a big difference on the defensive end. At least once the Buckeyes earned a Wisconsin shot clock violation. On several others the Badgers were forced into ugly shots at the end of the clock that simply wouldn’t fall. The Badgers ended up in a long streak of more than 5 minutes without a basket during the run.
Once Wisconsin got over their shooting slump, the shots began falling as if they were going out of style. Several big three pointers began to put the Buckeyes in a tough spot. But it wasn’t to going to last forever. With the Buckeyes down three, the Buckeyes worked the ball around the arc to finally find William Buford open for the shot to even up the score. It was only the second three pointer taken by the Buckeyes all game, and only the first they had hit.
With time rolling off the clock in the first half Wisconsin travelled giving the Buckeyes the last shot of the half. Ultimately, the Buckeyes went with Lighty on a fantastic dribble drive to take their first lead of the game while going into the half 28-26.
For the half, the Buckeyes shot a particularly good 12-22 (54.5%) from the floor and a surprisingly low 1-2 (50%) from three. Wisconsin responded with a ludcrous 5-11 (45.5%) from three point range, which accounted for half of their total baskets – 10-21 (47.6%) from the floor.
Despite his poor start, Buford lead all scorers with 11 points at the half with a 5-9 shooting outing. Wisconsin’s Jason Gasser lead his team with 8, including 2-2 from three and 3-4 overall. Surprisingly, despite having trouble getting the ball in the first 10 minutes of the game, Sullinger managed to rack up 8 points and 6 rebounds, quietly making his mark on the game.
Most importantly, Thad Matta was 148-19 with the lead at the half.
The Buckeyes came out of the half hot, hitting their first 4 baskets (and even their first 5, though one was called back as a jump ball). The quick start gave the Buckeyes an 8 point lead on the Badgers, and was earned with mid-range jumpshots and tough play in the paint by Sullinger. The effect seemed to completely take the wind out of Wisconsin’s sails early, forcing Bo Ryan to call an early timeout.
Unfortunately for Bo, the timeout didn’t work the way he had hoped. The Buckeyes continued their hot streak, building the lead to 10 and looking like they were in position to run away with the game.
Wisconsin started to bring the game back under control after letting the Buckeyes climb to a 15 point lead. Particularly valuable to the comeback were a couple of well timed Jordan Taylor three pointers to close the gap to 7. The Buckeyes were forced to take a timeout and try to settle the troops. But with the shooting suddenly going cold, the Bucks were starting to look like they were in trouble.
Ohio State was unable to cease the run in time. Before they knew it, Wisconsin had been on a 15-0 run, tying the game at 47 before Craft finally dropped a mid-range jumper to barely keep the Buckeyes from completely losing control. Given the way Wisconsin usually plays, finding runs to keep themselves in games, the sudden switch in momentum was unsurprising. The Bucks knew going in they were going to have to survive runs of this nature to win the game.
The run continued unabatted deep into the second half. The Buckeyes found themselves down 7 with four minutes left in the game and Wisconsin seeming nearly unstoppable with their shots falling like rain. And, as soon as Wisconsin had built a lead, they turtled up and began eating as much clock as they possibly could.
Down six, the Buckeyes began to try to work the ball down low and force Wisconsin into fouls. The strategy worked to get the Bucks back into it. Down two with nearly a minute left, Ohio State looked like they were going to be able to stay in it.
Until Wisconsin rained in an open three pointer and Craft lost the ball out of bounds on the resulting possession.
Ohio State found themselves down 7 points with only 18 seconds left on the clock. After a foul, Lighty made his first free throw but intentionally missed the second. Sullinger came down with the rebound and sank the three pointer to close the game to three with only seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately, the foul on Jon Leuer sent him to the line where he made one of his two to seal the deal.
The Buckeye’s outshot Wisconsin in everything except three point range. Ohio State shot 54.3% (25-46) from the field, but only 33.3% (3-9) from three. The Bucks even shot an incredible 87.5% (14-16) from the line. Unfortunately, Wisconsin hit 50% (25-50) from the floor and 48% (12-25) from three, a ludicrous three point shooting outing for an OSU opponent.
Give the Badgers credit for figuring out how to defend the Buckeyes and stop OSU from playing their style late in the game, even when down 15 midway through the 2nd half.
Jordan Taylor led all scorers with 27 points, including 5-8 from three. He was joined in double digits by Bruesewitz (12), Leuer (12) and Gasser (11) in double digits. William Buford topped the Buckeyes with 21, followed by Sullinger with 19 (along with 12 rebounds for his 11th double double of the season) .
The Buckeyes next face the Michigan State Spartans in Value City Arena on Tuesday, February 12th at 9:00 PM Eastern Time. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN.