The Buckeyes and Badgers played yet another tough battle on the hardwood tonight that could have gone either way until the Buckeyes finally opened up a lead late in the second half. The Buckeyes were able to withstand a couple Badger attempts at a comeback and eventually clinched the 58-49 victory at home. For the Buckeyes, DeShaun Thomas ended up leading a scorers with 25 and was joined by Aaron Craft as a significant scorer with 13. Wisconsin responded with Traevon Jackson’s 12 and Jared Berggren’s 11 for the game.
As is typical when you play a basketball game with Wisconsin you can safely expect there to be something less than no offense. That was exactly the case in the first half with neither team managing to score more than 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the game. Wisconsin took advantage of the traditionally poor OSU perimeter defense through the half hitting more three pointers than they hit shots inside the arc. That imbalance of shooting, and the success the Badgers had doing it, put the Buckeyes in a bit of a bind against Wisconsin’s strong defense. The Bucks were lucky to be down only two going into the locker rooms.
It took a while in the second half for the Buckeyes to finally exert control, but some great work on the fast break finally did the job. With the Buckeye defense holding Wisconsin scoreless for seven straight minutes in the middle of the half, the Bucks ran out on a 15-0 run to take an 11 point lead with only six minutes left in the game. A pair of Wisconsin three pointers put an end to the run and brought the game back into the ballpark of a couple possessions. Unfortunately for Wisconsin the Buckeyes were able to readjust, and the shots simply stopped falling for the Badgers allowing the Buckeyes to coast home for the victory.
This was an important game for the Buckeyes to play. Yet another tough, gritty, conference battle, but one that was generally within either teams ability to take control. For OSU to continue to plug away at what they wanted to do, despite Wisconsin controlling the tempo, showed growth in a team that has looked very young in their decision making all season. Not surprisingly, there’s still a long way for this team to go, but they’re starting to make strides in certain key areas of the game.
1. The Buckeyes beat the Badgers. Deal with it Bo Ryan, just deal with it.
2. Amir Williams showing a little hand strength in the paint! He’s been pretty poor at controlling the ball in the paint, but tonight seemed to be a turning point. On several occasions he managed to maintain control of the rock in traffic, both rebounding and scoring.
3. Interior defense. Wisconsin could not seem to buy a basket inside the paint, certainly something I never thought I’d ever say about a Wisconsin team. OSU’s defense did a fantastic job challenging shots in the paint and keeping the Badgers from scoring easy points.
4. Wisconsin did not shoot a single free throw the entire game. A lot of that has to do with great Buckeye defense and discipline, and a lot has to do with Wisconsin taking so many long range shots. Wisconsin fans need to not blame the refs for this.
1. The offense can only be described as “putrid”. Normally they would just be mediocre, but 4 points in the first 8 minutes of play is a combination of terrible offensive play, and traditional Wisconsin defense. It all adds up to simply putrid basketball. It doesn’t help matters when only three players score through 25 minutes of play.
2. Perimeter defense continues to be a critical problem for the Buckeyes. Wisconsin is not a very good three point shooting team, but they rained in the vast majority of their points from beyond the arc tonight. Perhaps I should just stop mentioning it, since it’s very nearly a default characteristic of Buckeye teams these days.
3. Poor shot selection continues to hurt this team at times. I’m not sure why we set up Aaron Craft for an off-the-dribble three pointer. We also tend to toss off-balance mid-range jumpers on a regular basis when the easy lane doesn’t magically appear. We need to start working for better shots rather than trying once and then just jacking something at the rim.
The Buckeyes are next in Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday, February 2nd to take on the Cornhuskers. That game will be on the Big Ten Network at 7 PM eastern time.