Jared Sullinger played a full game in beast mode, with 24 points and 10 rebounds, leading No. 3 Ohio State (20-3, 8-2) to its first win at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center since 2000, 58-52. Wisconsin shooting just 18.5% (5-27) outside the arc, and hitting only two baskets in the final four minutes, was very helpful in snapping the nine game road skid in Madison. The Buckeyes had a lot to do with that, playing their best overall defensive game of the season, but even when the looks were open, the Badgers couldn’t knock down their shots. Ohio State didn’t fare particularly well outside the circle either, hitting only 14.3%, but the Buckeyes attempted only seven bombs all night. The Badgers (18-6, 7-4) defended as if Jon Diebler and David Lighty were still on the team. The OSU guards got the ball inside and Sully and DeShaun Thomas did most of the damage, scoring 40 of the team’s 58 points. You could say that Sully’s play hocked a gigantic figurative loogie on Badger Nation.
Wisconsin’s big outside threats simply didn’t threaten. Jordan Taylor, Jared Berggren, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and Mike Bruesewitz combined to go 4-22 from long range. Some of those shots were well-defended, some were forced and some were rushed, but enough of them were open to easily overturn a 6-point final margin. Ohio State and Wisconsin played the slow-paced Badger style of basketball, but the Buckeyes did it better, attacking the rim and winning the rebounding battle (30-25, 9-7 on the offensive glass). Thomas’ 16 points were nice, but it was the six rebounds (four offensively) that really helped. William Buford took way too many shots to earn his 11 points (4-15), but he played great defense and hit a clutch triple and two big free throws down the stretch to keep Ohio State in front. He also grabbed six rebounds.
The Buckeyes and Badgers traded the lead throughout the first half, as Ryan Evans led Wisconsin with 10 points. Thomas seemed to be indecisive on whether to try to come out and risk the drive or play off and give up the jumper. Generally, he chose the latter and Evans made the Buckeyes pay on 5-8 shooting. Ohio State cleaned that up in the second half and Evans had only four more points after the break. Taylor failed to explode as he did in the second half of last year’s game in Madison, scoring only 12 points, despite opening the game with a bomb. Aaron Craft hounded him throughout the contest and forced him to use a lot of energy. Taylor had gone almost four full games worth of minutes without a turnover, but had three in the second half against Ohio State. Gingerwitz scored 11, mostly in the second half, to go along with 11 boards, and Berggren chipped in 10.
Though Ohio State did fail to do some of the things I thought they had to do to win, it was offset by poor long-range shooting by Wisconsin. Sully scored Ohio State’s first nine points, trading hoops with Taylor and Berggren, giving Ohio State an early 9-8 lead. Thomas hit sandwiched two buckets around an Evans jumper and Sullinger’s layup put the Buckeyes up 15-10 by the under-12 timeout. The Badgers came out of that timeout strong, scoring the next eight points. Berggren scored four of those. Sully and Buford fueled a 9-2 run to erase the Wisconsin lead. Ohio State’s four-point lead held at the half as the teams traded two baskets each and Brust missed a deep three at the buzzer.
The basket trading continued after halftime, only with more fouls and misses by both teams, until Berggren’s triple pulled Wisconsin within 32-31. Thomas scored the next four points and Sully drained two freebies to put OSU out front, 38-31. Bucky cut the lead to four before Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit a layup and-one. As the clock wound down under five minutes, the lead fluctuated between seven and four points. But Evans’ layup and Bruesewitz’s bomb brought the Badgers within one, 51-50. Things looked worse when Craft missed the front end of a one-and-one on the next possession, but Taylor made a rare turnover to give it back. Buford then hit his clutch triple and the crafty one hit his next two freebies to make it a six point game in the final minute. Taylor made a tough layup over Craft and Smith, but Buford then knocked down his free throws and Wisconsin could get no closer.
Thad Matta finally has his first win at the Kohl Center and the Buckeyes got a huge road victory in the race for the B1G regular season title. Matta reached 20 wins as a head coach for the 12th straight year. Ohio State gets back after it on Tuesday at home against Purdue.
Notes: Ohio State is now 5-2 against ranked teams this season and 1-2 on the road…The loss snapped Wisconsin’s six-game winning streak. The Buckeyes now own the B1G’s longest current streak, with five consecutive wins…Ohio State is 83-65 in the all-time series against Wisconsin, 28-43 in Madison, and 6-2 when both teams are ranked…Buford passed Jay Burson to move into seventh on the all-time OSU scoring list, and is now 19 points behind Jim Jackson for sixth…Ohio State has 20 wins for the eighth year in a row, tied for the second-longest streak in B1G history. Illinois has won 20 or more nine straight times once (1982-83 to 1990-91) and has another streak of eight (1999-00 to 2006-07) – h/t @BTNSportsGuy.