The No. 16/15 Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team (10-6 Big Ten, 21-8 overall) still feeling the sting from a heartbreaking loss to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, came into Columbus needing a big win to get back on track and impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The Badgers got their biggest win of the year, beating the Buckeyes (11-5, 23-5) 63-60 in a back-and-fourth game that resembled a championship boxing match. It was the Badgers first win over a top ten Big Ten team on the road since January 26, 1980, against Ohio State.
After going into halftime tied, the Badgers fell behind by six after sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas scored six straight Buckeye points. Wisconsin responded with a 7-0 run, that included a three-point play by senior guard Jordan Taylor and a clutch three by senior guard Rob Wilson.
With Wisconsin leading 42-41, Ohio State responded right back with a 9-0 run to go up by eight. The streak was ended by a big three by junior center Jared Berggren, that took a few bounces before finally falling through the rim.
With the lead up to six, it was yet another 7-0 Badger run that got them back in the lead. This run started with yet another big three, this time by Taylor to pull the Badgers within three. Then a 50/50 ball was saved by Evans and turned into a Gasser layup to get the Badgers back to within one. With the score still 51-50 Taylor hit a tough fall-away jumper to put the Badgers back on top with 3:47 to go. A layup by sophomore guard Aaron Craft put the Buckeyes up 57-56 with 2:10 to go.
After a few missed free throws by both sides, Taylor finally manned up and made two to put the Badgers up by one. The Buckeyes counterpunched with a layup by sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, but the Badgers came right back with another huge three by Berggren to put the Badgers up two with 31 seconds left. Thomas missed a three on the next possession, while Berggren got the rebound and made the free throws that would ultimately seal the game.
Taylor was the leading scorer for the Badgers with 19, followed by Berggren with 18. Evans recorded 10 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season and eighth straight double-digit scoring game.
Despite shooting 55 percent in the first half compared to Wisconsin’s 39 percent, the Ohio State Buckeyes found themselves tied with the Badgers going into halftime. This was in large part due to Ohio State’s sloppy offense. The Buckeyes seemed out of sync on offense for most of first half, committing 10 turnovers. These turnovers helped the Badgers stay close by giving them the opportunity to shoot six more shots than the Buckeyes in the first half, and in a game with such a slow pace, six extra shots is huge.
Wilson provided a much needed spark off the bench for the Badgers, making two important threes to keep Wisconsin close when it seemed that Ohio State was about to put some distance between themselves and the Badgers. Wilson finished the game with nine points, accounting for all of Wisconsin’s bench points and giving the Badgers a 9-1 advantage in points off the pine.
On defense, Wisconsin’s stifling post play kept Ohio State star Sullinger to just three field goal attempts in the first half, forcing other Buckeye players to step up. Thomas was huge for the Ohio State, shooting 6-for-8 and scoring 13 of the Buckeyes’ first 22 points. Senior guard William Buford also picked up the slack, shooting 3-for-6 to score 10 points in the first half.
Thomas finished the game with a game-high 23 points along with seven rebounds, followed by Buford with 15 points and Craft with 13. Sullinger finished the game with just eight points and six rebounds, far below his season average of 17 and nine.
The Badgers face off with rival Minnesota Tuesday night at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin beat the Gophers 68-61 earlier this season.