The sixth-ranked Badgers (28-3, 16-2) answered Ohio State’s run like one of the best teams in the country, responding with a 20-2 run over the next six minutes to swell their lead to 25 and put the game out of reach, finishing off the Buckeyes on senior day 72-48.
“We cut it to seven and they made some big-time plays,” head coach Thad Matta said. “We weren’t able to sustain what we needed to in terms of offense.
“They sort of took it to another level with their execution.”
The Badgers entered the game as the top-ranked team in the country in offensive efficiency and showed why during the game-deciding run as they turned a seven-point lead into a 25-point margin in just 6:28. Wisconsin went 9-14 during that stretch while hauling in five offensive rebounds.
The spurt started with back-to-back threes from sophomore Bronson Koenig, the second of which came on the fourth shot of the possession as Wisconsin secured three consecutive offensive rebounds. Koenig scored his eighth straight point on the next possession before Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky took turns scoring on the next four possessions. D’Angelo Russell snapped a 5:44 Ohio State scoring drought with a jumper with 7:15 left, but Kaminsky answered with a jumper of his own before Koenig book-ended the run with a layup to give Wisconsin a 66-41 edge with 6:31 remaining.
“It’s clear that they have a great offense,” Shannon Scott said. “Everybody on their team knows their system and they stick to it. Even when they miss shots they find a way to get the rebound and reset their offense and get it going again. They know what they want to do and run it to perfection.
“Yeah, it’s discouraging. We knew we wanted to come in and win this game and they blew us out, but we have no choice but to shake it off.”
It was the final home game for Scott and the five other Ohio State seniors who were honored before the game. In all it was a poor showing from the fourth-year players as Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald combined to shoot just 6-24, contributing to the Buckeyes dismal 34 percent shooting in the game.
Scott led the way among the seniors, scoring 10 points.
“Yeah, the way we went out we didn’t want to go out this way, but we’ve got to put it behind us now,” Scott said. “We know they’re a great team, we knew they would come here ready to play, but it’s a new season now with the Big Ten tournament. We’re 0-0 just like they are now.”
Ohio State (22-9, 11-7) is the six-seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will play in the last game Thursday night in Chicago.
While the second-half run cemented the Buckeyes fate, Wisconsin was in control throughout. Ohio State’s only lead of the game came after free throws from Thompson gave the Buckeyes a 2-0 edge. Two possessions later Wisconsin got on the board with a three from Nigel Hayes – one of eight Badgers to score – and never looked back.
The Badgers built a 37-23 halftime advantage behind 51.7 percent shooting. Wisconsin consistently got good looks as the Buckeyes crashed down on the post when Kaminsky got the ball inside, leaving shooters open.
Kaminsky, the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer who leads his team in rebounds and is second in assists, is a matchup nightmare for most teams as the 7-footer has connected on 42.1 percent of his three-point attempts this season. Matta elected to guard Kaminsky with 6-4 freshman Jae’Sean Tate, a move predicated on Kaminsky’s shifty footwork and passing acumen, Matta said.
“He moves it a little bit more,” Matta said of Kaminsky. “Hayes isn’t as skilled with him in the passing. I thought Jae’Sean did a pretty good job, especially early.
“I will say this, if I had to choose a freshman, I would want it to be Jae’Sean Tate to do that, there is no doubt about it. That’s the beauty of (Kaminsky) being a great player, no question about it.”
Kaminsky was held to eight points in the first half, but was productive finishing over Tate in the second half and ended the night with a game-high 20 points.
That was part of a balanced effort from the Badgers as Koenig tallied 15 points while Sam Dekker added 10.
The Buckeyes were led by Russell who scored 17, but it took the freshman 18 points to get there as Josh Gasser harassed him for most of the night.
“He did a great job as you can see from my stats and whatnot,” Russell said of Gasser. “Tough defender, great defender so give a lot of credit to him.”
Russell was the main factor in the run that got the Buckeyes back in the game. With the Badgers leading 44-27, their biggest margin up to that point, Russell scored or assisted on 12 straight Ohio State points to trim the lead to seven before Wisconsin’s run ended any hope of an upset.