A rush of emotion hit Ohio State head coach Thad Matta after a final three-point heave fell short from Wisconsin's sophomore forward Sam Dekker. The Ohio State men's basketball team defeated the Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 59-58 in a desperation game for both teams.
With 17 seconds left to play in the game, Wisconsin's junior guard Traevon Jackson stepped to the line with a chance to tie. Jackson made the first free-throw, but could not connect on the second.
All the Buckeyes need to do was hold the ball and finish the game off at the charity stripe, but junior Ohio State guard Shannon Scott threw a pass ahead to the senior Lenzelle Smith Jr., who appeared to have a free lane to the hoop. Smith could not connect on the semi-contested lay-up and fell to floor after grabbing the rebound.
Smith was called for a travel and you could hear all Buckeye fans back in Columbus collectively holding their breaths.
Eight seconds remained and the Badgers had a chance to knock off Ohio State on a final shot just like Penn State had done Wednesday night.
Incredibly, the Badgers could not find a good shot moving toward the basket and they had to settle for a deep prayer of a shot that did not connect. The Badgers offense ended the game on a field goal drought that spanned the final 6:42 of the second half.
The most surprising development of the final five minutes of play was Wisconsin's refusal to get the ball to its hot shooting freshman forward Nigel Hayes.
Hayes spent most of the second half dominating the low blocks against a rotation of Ohio State big men. The Buckeyes are lucky they did not wind up in overtime with the Badgers, because four Ohio State front court players finished the game with three or more personal fouls.
Hayes started the game a fiery 6-6 from the floor and finished with 17 points and five rebounds. The Buckeyes seemingly had no answer for the Toledo, Ohio product that was not heavily recruited by Ohio State.
However, Wisconsin began settling for long jump shots late in the game. The Badgers shot a horrid 18 percent (3-17) from long range and more importantly they only shot 66 percent (19-29) from the foul line. The Badgers came into the game shooting well over 70 percent from the free-throw line this season, and some big misses at the line really cost them.
This was not a typical Ohio State game to say the least, but it was a win they needed to help gain momentum for February and March.
Head coach Thad Matta finally made a change in the starting lineup, opting to start junior forward Sam Thompson over Shannon Scott.
Trey McDonald and sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle also came off the bench to combine for 17 big points to keep the Buckeyes in it early. Della Valle hit two huge three pointers cut into first half Wisconsin leads.
Ohio State senior guard Aaron Craft finally showed up late in the game, scoring all seven of his points in the final five minutes, including a hesitation move to the basket that tied the game at 55 late.
Wisconsin senior guard Ben Brust finished with 13 points in a losing effort.
The Buckeyes will look to continue the momentum on the road against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
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