Maybe they expended too much energy in their closer-than-expected bout with Northwestern. Maybe they were looking ahead to matchups with Michigan State and Minnesota. Maybe they had some bad cheese curds in Madison. Whatever the reason, the Ohio State Buckeyes came out completely flat in the early going, allowed themselves to be burried in a barrage of threes from Sam Dekker and Ben Brust to fall behind by 20 points in the first half, and the Badgers cruised to a critical victory.
The two teams started with an explosion of offense in the very early going, with a tied 6-6 game at the 16:40 mark after an Aaron Craft jumper. From there, it was On Wisconsin, in a dramatic way. The Badgers hit two threes and set up a three point play to set up an early 9-0 run, while tacking a 2nd early foul on Amir Williams. Ben Brust then nailed his second three pointer to push the margin to 18-6, a dangerous lead for a Wisconsin team even at that early part of the game.
Ohio State missed 14 shots in a row, bricking everything from layup drives to the basket, to three pointers, to contested jumpers early in the shot clock. By the time Deshaun Thomas finally tipped in a basket, the score was 24-8. To add insult to injury, Sam Dekker nailed a three pointer on the next possession to push the margin to 27-8, and the route was on.
The statistical carnage at halftime was startling for the Buckeyes, who did virtually nothing well and trailed 39-20. They shot a woeful 32% from the floor, missed all six of their threes, and recorded only a single assist and zero steals. Wisconsin, hardly an offensive juggernaut, shot a whopping 59.3% from the floor, including a staggering 55.6% from three. The bleeding could have actually been worse, as the Badgers missed multiple open looks during their 18-0 run. Jared Berggren led Wisconsin with 10 points and 3 rebounds, while Burst added 9 on three three-point bombs and Sam Dekker added 8. Ohio State also had 8 fouls tIn a must win road test for Ohio State, the Buckeyes struggled to do anything right and found themselves run right out of the gym from the very beginning. o Wisconsin's 2, which was particularly notable given that Wisconsin did not shoot a single free throw during their previous meeting.
A tiny sliver of hope for a comeback opened at the start of the second half, as two quick Sam Thompson buckets, who was scoreless in the first half, cut the margin to 13. The Bucks had a fast break opportunity to cut the margin to 11, but Smith turned the ball over, and Wisconsin was able to hit a big basket every time Ohio State tried to crawl back in. By the time 10 minutes had passed in the second half, the margin had ballooned up to 25 points, and Trey McDonald and Amedeo Della Valle were playing for the Buckeyes.
The only Buckeye who played anything resembling a competent offensive game was, naturally, Deshaun Thomas, who had 18-6, and recovered after the 0-14 team slump. Aaron Craft was 2-9 and badly missed multiple jumpers, Evan Ravenel was 0-3 while doing nothing but shoot high percentage shots, and Amir Williams had a spectacular stat line at the 7:00 min mark of 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 blocks and 4 fouls. Not other Buckeye had more than 8 points. Della Valle hit the first Buckeye three pointer with less than 7 minutes to go, but then promptly gave up three to Wisconsin on the next possession.
Everything came up Wisconsin. Berggren snapped out of his scoring slump to lead Wisconsin with a 15-7. Ben Brust had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Dekker added 13. The Badgers shared the basketball, gaining a 16-5 advantage in assists against only 6 turnovers, and shot 55% for the game. They even found ways to beat out Ohio State in transition, taking advantage of a tired and mentally beaten squad.
When Ohio State was run out of the gym against Illinois, we cautioned that it was just "one of those days", and not totally indicative of Ohio State as a team. Those sorts of games happen, where shots you normally make don't fall and the other team gets a little lucky with hitting bank shots or finding baskets late in the shot clock. Great teams find ways to fight through that adversity and win, or at least remain competitive. It is fair to say at this point that Ohio State is not a great team, and is rapidly running out of chances to demonstrate they are capable of becoming one.
Madison is a tough place to play for everybody, even the Michigans and Indianas, but there is no excuse for nearly falling behind by 30, consistently getting beaten late in the shot clock, or missing multiple high percentage shots, especially in a game that Ohio State *badly* needed to win in order to keep pace in the Big Ten, and enhance a lacking NCAA tourney profile.
The good news is that there are still games against Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois left. Hopefully Ohio State can use this as a turning point, and start to defend at the level they need to be more than just a footnote this march.