With the majority of the college sporting world focusing on the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers provided a hardwood appetizer to their football brethren as they faced off in Madison, Wisc.’s Kohl Center.
After giving up back-to-back double-digit leads to Butler and Clemson, the Buckeyes (6-3, 1-0) won their first conference game of the Chris Holtmann era, 83-58 over the Badgers (3-5, 0-1) thanks to outstanding performances by their veteran leaders and their freshman phenom.
The loss was the largest for Wisconsin in the Kohl Center. The previous worst was on Feb. 12, 2000 against Michigan State, 61-44.
In an unusually early Big Ten conference game (in order to accommodate a conference tournament a week early at Madison Square Garden), the Buckeyes enjoyed unbelievable shooting to open up an early, commanding lead. Holtmann also made a key change in his starting lineup as senior Jae’Sean Tate took over the point guard duties for the first time of the season. While he is not a natural PG, the responsibility seemed to focus him, and his team, on the principles of Holtmann’s offensive and defensive schemes.
Though the Buckeyes were a little sloppy, turning the ball over early, it was clear that their gameplan in the opening minutes was to pound the ball inside, either to big man Kaleb Wesson or with the dribble drive. The younger of the two Wesson brothers also hit a three-pointer to give OSU a 9-3 advantage at the first media timeout. The strategy moved outside from there.
Downtown shooting and taking care of the basketball allowed the Buckeyes to open an early 12-point lead. Eight minutes into the game, Ohio State was up 20-8, and had hit all four of its three-point attempts. Also, despite two turnovers in the opening minutes, they had given the ball up only once more after settling into the game. Junior guard C.J. Jackson had two triples, and Keita Bates-Diop added one to give him seven points in the early going.
After diving for a loose ball, Kaleb Wesson was called for an offensive and defensive foul on consecutive possessions, forcing the freshman to the bench, and bringing Micah Potter into the game.
Despite not starting at the PG position as he has throughout the season, Jackson was on fire hitting his first three three-point attempts, and allowing the Buckeyes to stretch the floor with his lights-out shooting. When Jackson wasn’t hitting threes, he was dishing dimes. He snuck a pass around two Badger defenders under the hoop to Tate who laid it in and was fouled; he was unable to complete his three-point attempt. However, he was able to complete the and-one on the following offensive possession.
As the first half wound down, OSU was still on a ridiculous shooting streak. At the under-four timeout, the Buckeyes were 16-20 (80%) from the field and 7-7 (100%) from behind the arc, while only turning the ball over five times, and dominating the glass, 16 to 7.
After the timeout, Bates-Diop missed on a somewhat out-of-control three to break the perfect streak from downtown. With a minute left in the opening half, as Musa Jallow was running the floor, Tate found him with a fantastic bounce-pass, and Jallow threw down a thunderous dunk to put the Buckeyes up 20, 46-26.
Bates-Diop converted on an old-fashioned three-point play to wrap up the first half scoring at 49-26 in favor of the Scarlet and Gray. At intermission, four Buckeyes had hit threes, and both Tate and Bates-Diop were already in double figures with 12 and 13 respectively. The rebounding advantage also was big for OSU, as they had 16 defensive boards, limiting the Badgers’ ability to extend offensive possessions beyond a single attempt.
The Buckeyes’ rebounding edge over Wisconsin (not something that you get to say often) was also evident in the points in the paint statistic, with Ohio State commanding a 16-6 margin there as well.
Wisconsin leading scorers at the break were Kobe King with seven points, and Ethan Happ and D’Mitrik Trice who had five apiece.
In the first two and a half minutes of the second half, Kaleb Wesson picked up six quick points, after sitting for much of the first 20 minutes. After the freshman had baskets on back-to-back possessions, Tate took a turnover and laid it in giving OSU a 59-28 advantage.
With the lead ballooning to over 30 points, Holtmann used the opportunity to get some of his reserves more playing time. Kam Williams, Kyle Young, and Andre Wesson all saw significant time after the break.
Though the Buckeyes still had a less than desirable number of turnovers, Wisconsin wasn’t often able to convert them into points. Ten minutes into the second half, while OSU had committed nine turnovers, Wisconsin had only scored seven points off of them.
With a little more than nine minutes left in the game, freshman guard Brad Davison hit a three to cut the Ohio State lead to 69-41. Then, after a missed Jackson three attempt, Davison hit two free throws to put the Badgers on a mini-run. At that point, OSU had missed five straight shots, but on the subsequent possession, Bates-Diop found Kaleb Wesson in the lane for a layup.
Davison would end up being the Badgers’ top-scorer with 16 points, 13 of which came after halftime. Reuvers and King both added 10 points apiece.
With just over six minutes left in the game, Tate took the ball and drove from one side of the lane to the other for a layup that got the lead back up to 30, 75-45. After a Nate Reuvers bucket for Wisconsin, Kaleb Wesson hit a nice up-and-under to give him 19 points, the high point of his career. Unfortunately, he picked up his fourth foul on the next defensive possession, and headed to the bench. The freshman finished with a game-high 19 points, and added three rebounds.
The exclamation point on the game came with 32 seconds left as Young took a Badger turnover and threw the outlet pass to a streaking Joey Lane who wrapped up the Buckeye scoring.
Ohio State had four players finish the game in double-figures, Kaleb Wesson, Bates-Diop (17), Tate (16), and Jackson (10). Bates-Diop picked up the game’s lone double-double, with 11 boards.
The Buckeyes will continue Big Ten play on Monday as they host the Michigan Wolverines at Value City Arena. The game will be broadcast on FS1 at 6:30 p.m. ET.