Thad Matta couldn’t wait until the game’s first media timeout to give Ohio State a talking to and get some fresh legs into the game. Less than four minutes into the game at Wisconsin time was already running out on the Buckeyes.
Ohio State fell behind 11-0 in the opening minutes, missing its first four shots and turning the ball over twice as Wisconsin had just one empty possession as the Badgers saw Vitto Brown power them to the early advantage with seven early points.
Matta saw the game and the season slipping away and called timeout. While whatever message he delivered – and the insertion of Trevor Thompson and JaQuan Lyle – made a clear difference, it wasn’t enough for the Buckeyes (14-10, 6-5 Big Ten) to overcome the hot-shooting Badgers in a 79-68 road loss.
After sitting for the first four minutes, Lyle made an immediate impact as the freshman scored Ohio State’s first basket of the night – and his first field goal since the Buckeyes played Penn State on Jan. 25 – before getting a steal and assist on the next possession.
Lyle’s hot start continued as he scored or assisted on the team’s first 10 points and poured in 18 in the first half, his first time in double figures since posting a triple-double against Rutgers Jan. 13. The freshman finished with 27 points on 11 of 19 shooting, by far his best performance in five games coming off the bench.
Even with the freshman’s aggressive approach, consistently attacking off the dribble and seeking his own shot, the Buckeyes failed to gain any semblance of control in Madison, Wisc. Ohio State led just once, a 22-21 advantage gained on Thompson free throws with 7:08 remaining, as the Badgers (14-9, 6-4) took a 38-32 advantage to the half.
Wisconsin used a balanced approach and strong three-point shooting to maintain control in the first half, a trend that carried over to the final frame.
A Nigel Hayes three, the tenth of the night from Wisconsin, brought the Badgers lead to 49-39 with 14:14 remaining, the first double-digit advantage since the early 11-0 lead. While the Buckeyes would respond with a 6-0 run they couldn’t close the gap.
The Badgers entered the game with the Buckeyes shooting just 33.3 percent from distance, but Greg Gard’s team hit 13 of 27 against Ohio State (48.1 percent).
Kam Williams did his best to respond to the hot-shooting Badgers, scoring 10 in the second half including hitting two threes. The shooting guard poured in eight straight over 2:52 stretch , but it did little to carve into the Buckeyes deficit as Nigel Hayes scored seven straight for Wisconsin, helping the Badgers to a 12-point edge, 62-50, with 9:25 remaining.
That surge forced another Matta timeout, and the Buckeyes responded with nine straight points to pull within three. Keita Bates-Dip, Marc Loving, Lyle and Jae’Sean Tate would all score the run to bring the Buckeyes within 62-59 with 7:04 remaining.
Following that possession Ohio State had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead twice down the stretch but the Buckeyes missed a layup and turned the ball over on those trips down the court, the latter of which came with 3:17 remaining.
The Buckeyes kept pressing, pulling within five on a three-point play by Bates-Diop, but a jumper by Brown with 56 seconds remaining sealed the victory for the home team.
Hayes finished with 21 points, scoring 18 in the second half, to lead the Badgers while Koenig and Brown joined him in double figures with 13 and 12 remaining.
Aside from Lyle, Williams was the only Buckeye in double figures with 10.
Wisconsin held the edge on the boards 36-27, lead by seven from Hayes.