After pushing a second-half lead to a game-high 15 points with less than 14 minutes remaining, the Buckeyes faltered down the stretch and suffered a 71-67 loss at No. 13 Wisconsin. For that, they had to thank cold shooting on their part and the hot play of Badgers junior guard Jordan Taylor.
With OSU's lead at 47-32 with 13:21 remaining, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale was proclaiming to a national television audience that the Buckeyes were undoubtedly the best team he had seen all season. It was at that point that Taylor and his teammates struck.
Taylor scored on his team's next three possessions, connecting on a basket in the paint and a pair of three-pointers to personally cut the deficit to seven points. It was the start of a 30-8 run that pushed the Badgers (18-5, 8-3 Big Ten) ahead by a 62-55 lead with 4:18 that would prove too much for the Buckeyes (24-1, 11-1) to overcome.
With the win, the Badgers earned their second-ever victory against a No. 1 team. The last came March 3, 1962: an 86-67 victory against OSU.
Adding insult to injury for the Buckeyes, they repeated as the only school to suffer a dubious record. The school's top-ranked football team suffered a loss at the hands of the Badgers during the 2010 season, giving Wisconsin two victories against the nation's top team in football and men's basketball in the same academic year.
In doing so, the Badgers joined the 2006-07 Florida Gators as the only other program to do so. In that season, Florida defeated top-ranked OSU teams in both the football and men's basketball national championship games.
The game-seizing stretch was ignited by a 15-0 run that started with Taylor's eight straight points. Wisconsin pulled even for the first time since the final minute of the second half when freshman guard Josh Gasser buried a three-pointer with 9:47 left to make it 47-all.
The Buckeyes stemmed the tied with a deep jumper by freshman Aaron Craft, and after the Badgers pulled even twice the visitors pushed their lead back out to three points on a pair of free throws from Craft with 7:11 left in the contest.
Fourteen seconds later, Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz canned a three-pointer to tie the score. OSU countered with a driving miss from senior forward David Lighty, and when Keaton Nankivil buried a transition jumper on the three-point line his team had a 57-55 lead it would never relinquish.
Taylor was the clear-cut star. After being frustrated by Craft during the first half, the junior led all scorers with 27 points. Following Nankivil's jumper, Taylor added a three-pointer on his team's next possession. He added a pair of free throws two possessions later to complete the 30-8 run started by his personal eight-point outburst. During the stretch, Taylor accounted for 18 points.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes went 3 for 11 from the field and committed two turnovers as the Badgers turned the game around.
The Wisconsin outburst came just as the crowd at the Kohl Center started to lose interest in the proceedings. After trailing for nearly the entire first half, the Buckeyes scored on nine of their first 10 second-half possessions. It enabled them to push their lead to a game-high 15 points, 45-32, when senior guard Jon Diebler hit a three-pointer with exactly 14 minutes remaining.
During that stretch, OSU hit on its first seven shots while Wisconsin went 2 for 7 and committed three turnovers. It was junior guard William Buford doing much of the heavy lifting during the run by the Buckeyes, scoring six points in a row at one point and scoring his 19th point of the game on a fast-break dunk that gave his team a 40-30 lead.
He would score two more points the rest of the way, hitting a jumper with 3:14 left that cut Wisconsin's lead to five points at 64-59.
Buford was OSU's leading scorer and just one of two Buckeyes to score in double figures. Freshman forward Jared Sullinger finished with 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, Lighty and Diebler combined to go 4 for 9 from the floor for 17 points thanks in large part to a combined 8-for-10 effort from the charity stripe.
After failing on their first 13 chances to take the lead, the Buckeyes managed to go into the half with a 28-26 advantage thanks to an athletic drive by senior forward David Lighty. With the score tied at 26, Wisconsin's Ryan Evans was whistled for traveling with exactly 34 seconds remaining.
The Buckeyes eased the ball up the court and ran the clock down, and it was Lighty who came up with the ball at the top of the circle with less than five seconds remaining. Faking the jumper, Lighty got a step on Evans and drove the right side of the basket. Leaping near the block, he twisted in the air to avoid making contact with Nankivil and tossed up an underhanded scoop shot with his right hand.
It banked off the glass and fell through with about two seconds remaining, capping a 9-2 run to close the half.
Behind a boisterous home crowd, the Badgers jumped out to a 10-4 lead. Buford hit a jumper to make it 10-6, and at the media timeout with 14:06 remaining OSU head coach Thad Matta inserted Craft into the lineup.
At that point, Taylor had scored half of his team's points. Once Craft started shadowing Taylor, the Badgers' offense looked to be mired in quicksand. Wisconsin scored just 16 points the rest of the way in the half and committed two shot-clock violations.
The Buckeyes had been the nation's lone unbeaten team. They maintain a two-game lead atop the Big Ten with six games remaining.