It was easy for Ohio State and its fans to blame the 22-point loss to the Badgers in late December on the absence of junior guard/forward and Player of the Year hopeful Evan Turner. But Saturday night, with the roles reversed due to Wisconsin was without junior forward Jon Leuer, the Badgers could not pull out a victory,
For the Buckeyes, Turner's presence made an immediate impact. He scored six of Ohio State's first nine points and finished the night with 15 points in 26 minutes on 7-of-13 shooting. And after only a brief lead in the first half, the Badgers found themselves playing catch-up on way to the 60-51 defeat.
Looking back on the Dec. 31 game at the Kohl Center against the Buckeyes, it was, unknowingly at the time, the perfect pre-test for the team to compensate for the unavailability of Leuer. He played only four minutes in the first half after committing two early fouls, but the play of senior guard Trevon Hughes and sophomore guard Jordan Taylor picked up the slack.
""We play as a team, and we know that Jon is one of our big guys in the post, but we have other guys that can fill his shoes,"" Hughes said about playing without Leuer after the game on Dec. 31. ""That's what we did; we did it as a committee and everybody that came in knew it was going to be a battle out there with [Dallas] Lauderdale.""
They weren't so lucky this time.
It wasn't Lauderdale giving Wisconsin fits though; it was the versatility of Ohio State's guards. Junior David Lighty scored a team high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and played all 40 minutes, and sophomore William Buford scored seven points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
The platoon of freshman Mike Bruesewitz and redshirt freshman Jared Berggren helped the Badgers stay competitive down low, but it was not discrepancy in the post game that cost Wisconsin the game. Ohio State only outscored the Badgers 22-16 in the paint, with the Badgers taking the advantage in second-chance points while also keeping rebounds even at 27.
The Badgers caught their second wind after halftime down 34-22. A layup by junior forward Keaton Nankivil and 3s from Hughes and junior forward Tim Jarmusz propelled Wisconsin to an 8-0 run and cut the Buckeyes' lead to four. With 16 minutes left in the game it looked as though the Badgers could produce a comeback effort like they did against Northwestern in Evanston.
But it is hard not to miss Leuer's 6'10"" frame and 15.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game though, and the poor shooting in the first half was too much to overcome. The pair of Turner and Lighty quickly helped the Buckeyes regain a 10-point advantage thanks to some untimely turnovers by Wisconsin. The Badgers finished the game with 14 turnovers and only seven assists.
With just under four minutes to go, a 3 by Nankivil brought the Badgers to within seven. But they went cold after that, missing four straight shots and turning the ball over twice.
Wisconsin, who had four of its first six Big Ten games on the road, comes home for two straight games with a 4-2 record.