Well the Big Ten is a tough conference, and the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (12-4 overall, 6-3 Big Ten) found out again Saturday afternoon, losing to a tough No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-4 overall, 6-4 Big Ten) team 72-62 Saturday afternoon.
The Buckeyes led wire to wire in the game, jumping out to a quick 11-3 lead and never looking back. Wisconsin shot an uncharacteristic 41 percent from the field, and just 25 percent from the three point line.
“We let themselves establish themselves early, and they got comfortable in the first half,” Aleem Ford said after the game. “Even when we tried to pick it up on that defensive end it was too late to negate that momentum they already had going for themselves."
It was a real pick your poison game for the Badgers, starting the first half disastrously on offense, and then allowing Ohio State to shoot north of 60 percent from the field defensively — while the game mattered — in the second half.
“We never set the tone defensively for how we've been or how we need to be," Head Coach Greg Gard said. “This team is best when it can sit back on the defensive end and let the offense come to them, and we never got to that point tonight.”
Wisconsin fell into an all too familiar trap in the first half, settling for contested jump shots instead of driving to the basket for easy shots down low. The Badgers took 15 of their 27 total shots from long distance in the first, and hit just three baskets on those looks (20 percent).
It was the fourth half in a row Wisconsin shot half, or more than half, of their shots from long range. Their three point percentage over those four halves was a putrid 28 percent, bottoming out against the Buckeyes.
“The games we shoot well in are games we establish ourselves down low first, to get to the free throw line and hit inside out shots,” Ford said. “We just need to do a better job of getting the ball inside, because we play worse when we force shots.”
The Badgers finally found their way inside the paint again in the second half, and shot nearly 50 percent on their field goal attempts, but the defense is what ended up failing. Ohio State put up 42 points in the second half on 14-25 (56 percent) shooting, which ties the most points given up in a half for Wisconsin this year — Michigan State first half.
E.J. Liddell led the way for Ohio State in the game, bullying his way to 20 points and seven rebounds to lead all scorers.
Wisconsin had four players score in double digits for the tenth time this season — led by Ford with 13, D’Mitrik Trice with 12, and both Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers with 11. Previously the Badgers were 9-0 when four or more players scored in double figures.
Wisconsin still boasts an 8-4 record in Quad 1 and 2 games, and a 3-2 record over the top 25 after the loss against Ohio State, but it’s now been nearly a month without a win over a ranked opponent. Even more surprising is that two of the Badgers three Big Ten losses have come at home in the Kohl Center, where they usually dominate.
Some good news for Wisconsin despite the loss, Nate Reuvers looked potent both offensive and defensively on the court against the Buckeyes after having lost his starting spot to Tyler Wahl. Reuvers was 5-9 from the floor, scoring 11 points with three rebounds and a block.
“I thought [Reuvers] played better, and he's practiced better,” Gard said. “For him to take this step forward today is a good sign for us, we need him to get back to the Nate Reuvers he can be."
The Badgers have a full week off before their next game against Maryland in Annapolis, where they’ll look to build momentum for the rest of the Big Ten season.