The Buckeyes started out the game in their usual away game slump. The only exception was Jared Sullinger who single-handedly dragged the Bucks through the early stages of the game. Part of the struggles were due to the usually tough Wisconsin defense, that was causing the OSU offense to stagnate. Wisconsin also took advantage of OSU’s early struggles by finding defensive gaps and sank a couple open three-pointers to keep the game close.
Matta made a surprising adjustment early in the game replacing Aaron Craft with Shannon Scott after Craft took a horribly ill-advised 3. Scott performed admirably as a replacement for the sophomore point guard, picking up a steal and generally making Jordan Taylor’s life difficult on the defensive end. The switch did not last much longer than a few minutes – probably just long enough for Craft to get a talking-to – before Craft was back in the game leading the Bucks.
The Badgers grabbed the lead back with an 8-0 run off a couple ill-advised Buckeye turnovers and some poor Ohio State defensive rebounding. For one stretch Wisconsin forced the Bucks into 90 seconds of defense as they collected several rebounds on the offensive end. The Bucks also found themselves struggling to find their offense against the stout Badger defense, and particularly found it hard to get the ball to Sullinger under the basket. Considering Sullinger was the most consistent scorer, and the most fucused Buckeye, that was an unsurprising defensive strategy for Bo Ryan.
Ohio State recaptured the lead on a 9-2 run by simply focusing on their defensive rebounding and closing out on the shooters. The Badgers struggled to find open looks and missed several jumpers that allowed the Buckeyes to slowly regain control of the game. OSU seemed perfectly content to allow Wisconsin to take their time on offense looking for a shot that the Buckeye defense had no intention of giving them.
Once the lead had been retaken by the Bucks, the teams closed out the half with a back and forth scoring game that prevented either team from controlling the momentum going into the half. Wisconsin had a last second opportunity as Brust popped a long three pointer at the Buzzer but, as with the majority of Wisconsin’s shooting in the first half, the ball simply wouldn’t fall for the Badgers. The Badgers shot an atrocious 14.3% (2-14) from beyond the arc – and shot 0-11 on their last 11 threes – in the first half. That was likely a big reason they went into the locker rooms down four.
The game flow continued as if there had been no break in the action. Both teams had settled into a back and forth battle where niether seemed willing to yield an inch. Every score seemed to be answered, in several cases on three pointers from Wisconsin, and no-one could take control of the game. As the Bucks desperately tried to pull away, Wisconsin would close the gap again. It had the feel of a game that would come down to the last seconds no-matter what anyone tried to do.
With only three Buckeyes scoring through the first 32 minutes of the game, Lenzelle Smith finally made a huge appearance. Smith drove the lane and drew a foul on a made layup that allowed the Buckeyes to put up a 7 point lead. Wisconsin attempted to answer on the other end of the court with 8 minutes left on the clock. The Buckeye defense stymied what Jordan Taylor wanted his team to do and Taylor was eventually forced to jack up a three in the last moments of the shot clock that fell far left of the basket. It finally felt like the momentum had swung in OSU’s favor.
A well-timed TV timeout allowed Bo Ryan to settle down his team and prevent the Buckeyes from running away with the game easily. It also allowed Wisconsin to start to slowly climb back into the game much like last season’s game in the Kohl. Despite being down only 5, the uphill climb seemed incredibly difficult for the poor-shooting Badgers. A poor blocking call on Sullinger on a Jordan Taylor layup gave Wisconsin some momentum that they quickly turned into a three-pointer from forward Mike Bruesewitz. The shot closed the gap to one with three and a half minutes to play.
William Buford chose the perfect time to hit the first Ohio State three pointer of the day. With the Buckeyes up only one and after Sullinger stole an entry pass from the Badgers, Buford found an open look from the right wing to give the Buckeyes a three point boost. The shot seemed to pour a little cold water Wisconsin’s momentum as the Badgers struggled to find a good shot on the other end. They then followed that up with a terrible turnover due to fantastic defense from Lenzelle Smith in the full-court press. The Buckeyes seemed to be picking up their play in the waning minutes of the game, trying to close out a big win.
The Buckeyes clung to their 4 point lead with under a minute left. William Buford extended that lead to 6 on a pair of free-throws that really put Wisconsin in a bad position, needing two scores with time quickly dwindling. Wisconsin was unable to get their offense going, and the Buckeyes were eventually able to dribble out the clock for their first win in the Kohl Center since 2000, and the first win for OSU in that building under Thad Matta.
Jared Sullinger’s 24 points and 10 rebounds not only netted Sullinger another double-double for his career, it also allowed him to break into the 1,000 career points scoring club at Ohio State – as a sophomore. That’s an extremely fast pace for entering that club. For example, Buford didn’t break into that club until he was a Junior. Congrats to Sullinger for his addition into the record books for his scoring.
Deshaun Thomas also had a huge game, scoring a very quiet 16 points and 6 rebounds. He was joined in the double digits by William Buford who had 11 points and 6 rebounds. Four Badgers scored in double digits: Evans with 14, Taylor with 12, Bruesewitz with 11, and Berggren with 10.
The Buckeyes shot 43.1% (22-51) from the floor and 1-7 (14.3%) from three. Wisconsin responded with 40% (22-55) and 18.5% (5-27) respectively.
The Buckeyes will next face the Purdue Boilermakers in Columbus on Tuesday, February 7th at 9:00 PM EST. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN.