This afternoon Wisconsin and Ohio State met in Value City Arena for the last game of the regular season. This was a highly anticipated matchup between two teams playing well down the stretch. As it was senior day, Ohio State faithful saw a number of familiar players perform for the last time at home. Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams, and Trey McDonald took on Wisconsin for their last game at home.
Wisconsin has been the class of the Big Ten all year. Led by National Player of the Year candidate Frank Kaminsky, the Badgers have played solid, consistent basketball and have proven that they are one of the best teams in the country.The Buckeyes, on the other hand, have seen their ups and downs throughout the season. D'Angelo Russell has been the torchbearer for this Buckeye team and has lead Ohio State to its likely NCAA tournament bid.
The Buckeyes started off out of sorts. Despite their ability to get to the rack, the Buckeyes had some aggravating turnovers and questionable shots. Shannon Scott seemingly could not do anything right in the first 10 minutes and no one could get going offesnively. In an interesting move, Thad Matta put Jae'Sean Tate on Frank Kaminsky. Even more interesting is that Tate more than held his own defending in the post.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes just could not find the bottom of the net. In the first 12 minutes the Buckeyes shot 20% from the field and 16% from 3. Additionally, Marc Loving may have played the worst half of his life both offensively and defensively. Sam Thompson went a dismal 0-6 in the first half and every Buckeye who saw minutes seemed content to settle for contested jumpers. The Buckeyes went into the half down 14 with nothing going well on the court.
The Buckeyes began to turn things around a bit in the second half, cutting the lead to 10 early on. Led by the dynamic duo of Russell and Tate, the Ohio State showed signs of life at home. However, some dagger threes and Kaminsky on the inside kept the Badgers ahead for good and put the Buckeyes away. Aside from a nifty 9-2 run for the Buckeyes, nothing really went well in the second half. Wisconsin forced turnovers on defense and patiently waited for good shots on offense. They are a well oiled machine that came ready to play today and handed Ohio State their 9th loss of the season.
3 Things We Learned:
1) This was a very offensively well rounded performance by Wisconsin. Considering the state of the Buckeye front court, the smart money was on Frank Kaminsky doing his best Incredible Hulk impression and imposing his will on the Buckeyes. And for the most part he did. However, Jae'Sean Tate surprisingly held his own against Kaminsky and made him work for any buckets he did get early on. By the end of the first half, every Wisconsin Badger who saw the floor had a bucket and the entire team shot over 50% from the field. Surprise performances from guys like Duje Dukan and Bronson Koenig helped put the Badgers in the lead early on in this one. The Badgers were able to keep their efficient shooting going through much of the game as they stayed pretty consistent at 50% from the field.
2) The senior class went out with a weak fizzle. This senior class has been a part of some great teams in their careers with Ohio State. They have seen a Final Four, an Elite Eight, and countless wins in the Big Ten. However, this year, they have been a painful disappointment. This has been starkly apparent in nearly every big game this year. Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson have been the most disappointing in their penchant for shrinking in the big games.
By the end of this year, D'Angelo Russell and Jae'Sean Tate, both true freshmen, completely took over the team, leaving the senior class in their dust. The seniors' knowledge of the system and leadership potential going into this year was completely eclipsed by their questionable decision making and lilliputian efforts in big games. Hopefully, moving forward in future years, the Buckeyes don't suffer from as toothless senior class as this one has been.
3) Up next: The Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes head into the Big Ten Tournament as the likely 6th seed. This means they will have a single bye and then be favored in their first matchup of the tournament. Its important that the Buckeyes put this loss behind them and screw their heads on straight for post season play. They could still use a confidence inspiring win before heading into the NCAA Tournament. More importantly, the Buckeyes need to put this loss behind them and avoid any upsets moving forward. As a likely 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes are going to face some legitimate programs and tough challenges. They will need to be geared up and ready to put their best foot forward or else it will be another forgettable NCAA Tournament for Ohio State.