With the Big Ten tournament looming and a chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament still in play, the sixth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers wanted to make a statement in the final game of the regular season.
They certainly managed to do that Sunday afternoon in Columbus, where the Badgers (28-3 overall, 16-2 Big Ten) thoroughly dominated the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes (22-9, 11-7) on their way to a 72-48 victory.
Senior forward Frank Kaminsky finished with 20 points to lead all scorers, sophomore guard Bronson Koenig scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, and the oft-criticized UW bench played one its best games of the season to help lead the Badgers to one of their best all-around performances of the year.
The Wisconsin bench was pivotal to the offense’s success early in the first half, providing 12 points in the first 11:31 of the game after contributing a total of just 11 points in the previous five contests.
Redshirt senior forward Duje Dukan led the charge with seven points for the Badgers’ reserves, which outscored the Ohio State bench 14-2.
Wisconsin’s offense methodically carved up the Buckeye defense in the first half, going 15-of-29 from the field as the Badgers took a 37-23 lead into the locker room. Ohio State, on the other hand, shot just 8-of-28 and turned the ball over six times in the first half.
Redshirt senior guard Josh Gasser held Ohio State’s standout freshman guard D’Angelo Russell in check in the first half, holding Russell to just five points on 2-of-8 shooting to go along with three turnovers.
However, Russell came alive early in the second half, helping spark a 12-2 run to pull the Buckeyes within seven. But Koenig answered for the Badgers with eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, and the rout was back on.
Koenig’s eight consecutive points were part of a 20-2 run for UW, who handed Ohio State just its second loss at Value City Arena this season. As noted by 247Sports’ Evan Flood, it was also the first home loss in March for the Buckeyes in the 11-year tenure of head coach Thad Matta.
Russell finished with 17 points to lead the way for Ohio State, while freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate chipped in 13.
For Wisconsin, junior forward Sam Dekker recorded 10 points and eight rebounds and sophomore forward Nigel Hayes added eight points and eight rebounds of his own.
As a team, UW went 31-of-62 from the floor, its third straight game shooting at least 50 percent.
The Badgers became just the third Big Ten team since the 1997-’98 season to win 28 games during the regular season, joining the 2004-’05 Illinois squad and the 2010-’11 Ohio State team.
Wisconsin enters the Big Ten tournament as the top seed and having won its last three games and 13 of its last 14.
The Badgers get a double bye into the conference quarterfinals, where they’ll play the winner of Michigan-Illinois Friday at 11 a.m. at the United Center in Chicago.