Ohio State came out of the gates strong, using a 9-0 run midway through the first half to open up a 22-12 lead. Early on C.J. Jackson and Jae’Sean Tate did most of the damage for the Buckeyes, with Jackson scoring nine of Ohio State’s first 22 points, and Tate racking up seven points and eight rebounds in the first 12 minutes of the half.
Both Ohio State and Wisconsin saw their shots fall from distance early, but the big difference which allowed the Buckeyes to open up an early lead is they were able to make their shots from inside the arc. Wisconsin finished the first half with nine field goals, seven of them coming from three-point range. On the other side, Ohio State shot 50% from the field, and went into the half with a 44-31 lead.
Jae’Sean Tate was the star of the first half for Ohio State, finishing the first 20 minutes with 13 points and 10 rebounds. C.J. Jackson had nine early points for the Buckeyes, while dishing out three assists and adding three steals. Micah Potter added five points and four rebounds off the bench for Ohio State.
Had it not been for Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin might have found themselves facing a bigger deficit at halftime. The senior hit four three-pointers in the first half, finishing with 14 points. Vitto Brown was the second-leading scorer for Wisconsin in the first half, scoring six points. Along with their poor shooting from the field, Wisconsin was dominated on the boards, as Ohio State outrebounded the Badgers 23-12 in the first half.
Wisconsin looked like they might have a little something for Ohio State in the middle of the second half, cutting the lead to nine, mostly behind some more hot shooting from Koenig. But Ohio State put an end to that threat behind three-pointers from JaQuan Lyle and Jackson to restore the lead to 15 points.
Even a technical foul on Jae’Sean Tate, which gave the junior four fouls with about eight minutes to go couldn’t slow Ohio State’s momentum. Not only did Jackson’s hot shooting from the first half roll over to the second half, but Ohio State continued to get strong contributions from their bench in the final 20 minutes. After Potter set the tone with his performance in the first half of the bench, JaQuan Lyle started to fill up the stat sheet in the second half. Lyle recorded his highest scoring output of the month, finishing with 17 points. Lyle did most of his damage at the foul line, hitting all 10 of his free throw attempts.
Wisconsin got some late buckets to make the final score look a little closer than the game actually was. Koenig finished with 27 points, while D’Mitrik Trice was the only other Badger in double-figures, scoring 14 points off the bench. Ohio State did a tremendous job of keeping Ethan Happ in check, limiting the sophomore to four points and six rebounds.
C.J. Jackson finished as Ohio State’s leading scoring, hitting nine points in each half to finish with 18 points. After a big first half, Jae’Sean Tate was pretty quiet in the second half, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds. A week after Tate became the 26th Buckeye to rack up 1,000 points and 500 rebounds, Marc Loving became the 27th Ohio State player to hit those milestones, with the senior recording 10 points and five rebounds in the victory.
After hitting 50% of their field goal attempts in tonight’s victory, Ohio State will hope their hot shooting will carry over to Tuesday night, when the Buckeyes hit the road to take on Penn State. Following Tuesday’s matchup against the Nittany Lions, Ohio State will close out the regular season at home next Sunday against Indiana.
3 things we learned:
1. When his career is over, Jae’Sean Tate will likely go down as one of the most underappreciated players in the history of Ohio State basketball. Sure, Tate has plenty of fanfare now, but imagine if he played on some of Ohio State’s more successful teams. Last week Tate became the 26th Buckeye to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds, and all he did tonight was register a double-double in the first half.
The junior from Pickerington to help this Ohio State team be successful, but some things are just out of Tate’s control. His strong play has been overshadowed by things like transfers, other players underachieving, and the Buckeyes struggling to find wins over the last few years. While many will try and forget this season of Ohio State basketball, at least the play of Tate will be one area that will be worth remembering. Luckily for Buckeye fans one thing to be optimistic for next season about is that Tate should be back for his senior season, where he can finish off a very strong career.
2. This season will be remembered as a season of “what ifs” for the Buckeyes. What if Keita Bates-Diop hadn’t been lost for the year earlier in the season? What if the Buckeyes hadn’t lost so many close games? What if the Buckeyes got more consistent play from some of their key players? Things would be a lot different right now, and there might not be rumblings that Thad Matta’s time in Columbus might end sooner rather than later.
Ohio State has lost seven games by six points or less this year. Even if Ohio State wins three or four of those games, the Buckeyes still might be on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Who knows how the team would have responded if Ohio State could have won big games against Virginia, Purdue, and Northwestern this year. Even with the win tonight, Ohio State is going to have to be perfect the rest of the year if they want to insert themselves in the NCAA Tournament conversation. Instead Ohio State is looking at a second straight trip to the NIT.
3. Ohio State has to be glad they won’t see Bronson Koenig again. At least this is the last scheduled time the Buckeyes will see Koenig, but it is possible the two teams could meet up in the Big Ten Tournament. In the first meeting with Ohio State, Koenig hit five three-pointers and finished with 21 points in Wisconsin’s blowout win last month over the Buckeyes in Madison.
With his effort tonight, Koenig has scored at least 13 points in each of the last four meetings with Ohio State. Koenig not only became Wisconsin’s all-time leader in three-pointers made, but with his effort tonight from long range against the Buckeyes, the senior has now hit at least a trio of three-pointers in each of Wisconsin’s last four games against Ohio State. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Koenig single-handedly win Wisconsin a game or two in March with his ability to hit the three-pointer, at least it likely won’t come at the expense of Ohio State.