After leading by as many as 13, the Ohio State Buckeyes went cold in the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers, ultimately losing the second round contest at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 73-63. Ohio State ends their season at 14-14, as head coach Kevin McGuff falls to 9-5 in Big Ten Tournament play.
Wisconsin won the opening tip, but a missed shot by Marsha Howard foiled the early possession. However, one of few players returning for OSU from last year’s B1G championship team Makayla Waterman couldn’t connect with a three-pointer on the Buckeyes’ first possession in Indy.
For over two minutes, neither side couldn’t get on the board. Ohio State’s Carly Santoro, though, would break the stalemate with a layup. After Santoro’s make, Freshman Janai Crooms put home one of her own. The mini-run would end there, as Wiscy’s Kelly Karlis nailed a three-pointer to get the Badgers within one at 4-3.
Aaliyah Patty then checked in for Waterman, and made an instant impact. She knocked down a three to put the Buckeyes back up four. Patty also scored on a layup, and with the help of two inside buckets from the NCAA’s all-time assist leader Carmen Grande, OSU pulled up with a 13-5 lead with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. Badgers head coach Jonathan Tsipis called for a timeout as Ohio State garnered momentum.
The timeout paid dividends as Wisconsin went on a 7-0 run, making shots from beyond the arc, in the paint, and from the free throw line. However, the Buckeyes held the advantage at the conclusion of the first frame, 15-12.
Ohio State opened up the second quarter with a couple of big shots. Threes from Grande and Dorka Juhasz paced the Buckeyes to a 21-14 lead. Combined with the Badgers going scoreless for over two minutes in the waxing moments of the half, the Buckeyes held tight to their lead. At the media timeout with 6:20 left, OSU maintained a 26-14 advantage.
Grande had 10 points at this juncture, and was a catalyst for the Buckeyes’ 8-0 run. Karlis and Howard struggled from the field during this stretch — as did the rest of the Badgers. Seven straight missed shots didn’t do Wiscy any favors, and were the reason for why they went over four minutes without a point. Karlis would break the slump with a three to get Wisconsin within single digits, 26-17.
While Ohio State had their own share of struggles from the field — they had a stretch where they went 1-of-8 — they still held a sizable lead at halftime. Thanks to Grande’s scoring and Juhasz’s team-leading nine rebounds, the Buckeyes were up 32-22 at the midway point of the contest.
OSU’s defense was stifling through 20 minutes. The Badgers were 7-for-31 from the field, which equals a not-so-good 22.6 percent. The Buckeyes were making shots at a 41.4 percentage clip, going 12-of-29. Five of those buckets came from three-point range, with Grande making two of them. At no point in the first half did the Buckeyes trail; and at one point, their lead was as many as a baker’s dozen.
Wisconsin closed the gap and got within six in the third quarter, thanks to a two minute scoring drought from the Bucks. Howard and Imani Lewis knocked down layups heading into the media timeout to make the score 34-28. Ohio State missed their first 11 shots to begin the new half, but had three points due to free throws. Halfway through the third frame, the Buckeyes’ lead was just three points, 35-32.
Both teams were similar in turnovers and rebounds, but the Badgers made 4-of-7 from the field in the third, with none of their shots coming from downtown; they went inside to get their points.
It didn’t matter who shot the ball for OSU, there was a figurative lid on the basket in the third quarter. Waterman, Santoro and Grande all had shots clank. Whether it be layups, jumpers or from three-point range, nothing was working for McGuff’s squad. Waterman would finally break the shooting slump with 4:04 remaining in the quarter, knocking down a three from the top of the key. Adrena Miller would follow up Waterman’s three with one of her own.
Ohio State pulled back up by eight, but the Badgers were fighting to the end. Karlis and Suzanne Gilreath made threes in the final 1:05 of the third, and cut the Buckeyes’ lead to three, 46-43, to begin the final quarter.
Howard drove to the basket and slipped past the OSU defense for a quick score. After a miss from Waterman, Howard drilled a step-back jumper to give Wisconsin their first lead of the game, 47-46, with a little more than nine minutes remaining in regulation.
The teams traded the lead over the next couple of minutes. Juhasz and Crooms made shots inside for the Buckeyes; Gilreath and Lewis connected on threes for the Badgers. After a defensive foul on Grande, Howard made a pair of free throws to give the Badgers a four-point lead, 55-51, with 6:48 remaining in the game. McGuff called a timeout to talk things over, as OSU was being outscored 12-5 in the fourth frame.
Off of the timeout, Miller turned the ball over via offensive foul. Karlis capitalized off the mistake, knocking down a three on the far wing. Not long after that, Niya Beverley made a three-pointer just off the top of the key, and in conjunction with a Karlis steal and score, the Badgers found themselves up by 10, 63-53.
Ohio State couldn’t get out of the hole, as Wisconsin was shooting 4-of-5 from downtown in the quarter. With the loss, there will be a new conference tournament champion for the Big Ten. Wisconsin plays Michigan tomorrow; time is TBD, as it will start roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of the noon game between Maryland-Michigan State.