Led by a season-high 13 3-pointers, Wisconsin (6-4 Big Ten, 14-9 overall) extended its win streak to five by defeating a stingy Ohio State team (6-5, 14-10) 79-68 at the Kohl Center Thursday night.
With the Buckeyes locking down on defense in the post, the Badgers took full advantage of the open looks they got beyond the arc within the first minutes of the game.
“We we weren’t as quick as we needed to be to get back,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of his team’s defense. “They got rolling and it became contagious.”
UW exploited the Buckeye 3-point defense, shooting 48.1 percent from three and had five players with two or more 3-point buckets.
“We were going to have some kick-out opportunities if they were going to collapse that much. I thought for the most part the threes we did take were pretty good ones,” UW interim head coach Greg Gard said.
The Badgers’ sharpshooting carried them throughout the entire game, but it was also the spark play of redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Hill that enabled the Badgers to hold onto their leads.
Hill finished the night with nine points and grabbed five rebounds in just 17 minutes of playing time. This included a huge triple with 1:41 left that put Wisconsin up by eight and essentially iced the game. Over the past month he has shown flashes as Wisconsin’s most crucial reserve and continues to improve.
“I love playing with him. He’s a competitor,” junior guard Bronson Koenig said of Hill. “He plays really good defense and he seems to hit a lot of big shots when we need them.”
Despite starting off the game on an 11-0 run, the Buckeyes stormed back on a 10-3 run and led 22-21 at the 7:08 mark in the first half, before the Badgers answered back to take a 38-32 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the first half, junior forward Nigel Hayes was an abysmal 1 of 7 from the field and the Badgers could not contain OSU bench player JaQuan Lyle, as he produced 18 first-half points.
However, the script was flipped in the second half, as Hayes finished the night with 21 points and Lyle was limited to only nine second-half points.
The matchup certainly had significant NCAA Tournament implications, with both teams coming into Thursday’s matchup desperately needing a win to keep their tournament hopes alive. While the Badgers have a difficult stretch of games looming ahead, another home win against a conference opponent can only boost their tournament résumé for the time being.
“This group’s chemistry and cohesiveness has grown immensely over the last seven or eight weeks,” Gard said.
The Badgers will be back in action next Wednesday, when they face off against Nebraska at the Kohl Center at 6 p.m.