The Buckeyes could not defend Wisconsin's patient offensive attack and endured one of its worst offensive showings of the season in a 64-56 loss in Big Ten men's basketball action before 17,763 at VCA.
"I think Wisconsin – I've said this all along – is a tremendous basketball team," said OSU coach Thad Matta. "They came in and hit 6 of 7 threes in the first half, they're going to be right there with anybody. For whatever reason, we were not ready to compete at the level you have to compete when you are playing one of the top teams in the country."
That was evident with 41 seconds left when UW's Mike Wilkinson missed a foul shot. The ball hit the floor and Wilkinson was the first one to it. He was fouled (again) by OSU's Jamar Butler. Matta took the opportunity to sub the entire lineup at that point.
"Personally, I had packed it in," admitted OSU's Matt Sylvester. "I was playing like a big wimp. I take responsibility for that. I could have grabbed the ball. I just didn't have the passion I needed to have in that situation."
Matta shared some of his message to the players.
"I just basically said this is indicative of today," Matta said. "That play summed up what happened to us throughout the course of the game. That one was one of the more obvious plays."
The eight-day layoff may have also played into OSU's sluggishness.
"It did," Matta said. "I don't know if that got us out of our rhythm or what. I thought we had practiced well. You learn a lot of things about your team in a week off, some of them you don't want to know."
Alando Tucker scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Badgers (18-7, 9-5). Wilkinson added 14 points and eight rebounds. UW was 24 of 48 (50 percent) from the floor, including 8 of 15 on three-pointers. The Badgers, coming off a tough loss at No. 9 Michigan State Thursday, also outrebounded OSU 37-24.
Terence Dials scored a game high 20 points to lead Ohio State (18-10, 7-7). Dials was 8 of 10 from the floor, although he only had one shot attempt in the second half. OSU committed at least four of its 12 turnovers trying to get Dials the ball in the second half.
"I thought we mixed it up enough to not let them get comfortable," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. "Dials did have a run, but I don't think they were able to get comfortable over the course of the game. They couldn't settle in."
Dials added, "Any good team will make adjustments in the second half. They put a guy on the back side and we couldn't get the lobs we were getting in the first half."
Sylvester was next for OSU with eight points, but he was just 3 of 12 from the floor and 0 of 7 from behind the arc.
The loss spoiled the historic uniform number retirement ceremony for John Havlicek. It also stalled OSU's late-season momentum and all but assured that the Buckeyes would be seeded sixth or lower for the Big Ten tournament.
"We were flat from the start," Sylvester said. "The first possession of the game we gave up a three-pointer (to Wilkinson). We were flat the whole game. The place was packed, John Havlicek was sitting in the stands. There was no excuse for it.
"I am utterly ashamed of myself. I don't know really what else to say. I had all the open looks in the world. I took 12 shots. Terence, the best player on our team, took 10. I was 0 for 7 on threes, but I was not taking bad shots."
For the game, OSU was 20 of 50 (40 percent) from the floor, including 5 of 22 (22.7 percent) on three-pointers. The Buckeyes made just one of their first 12 three-point shots. Their final shooting numbers looked better after they made their last four shots from the floor in the final two minutes, all after the game had been decided.
Wisconsin got out of the gate strong with leads of 5-0, 8-2 and 17-7 behind the strong early play of Wilkinson, who scored eight of UW's first 10 points. Wilkinson had scored 29 points in Wisconsin's 72-66 win over OSU on Jan. 11 at Madison.
"Wilkinson had eight points out of the gate," Matta said. "It didn't take a genius what they would open up with. That's what they did when they won the game up there. We prepared all week for it, but we didn't have it."
The Buckeyes rallied by scoring 10 straight. With Wilkinson out with two fouls, Dials had a pair of three-point plays, Sylvester made a driving one-handed shot and Dials had a jam off a feed by Sylvester to tie the game at 17-17 with 9:14 left.
Wisconsin then went on a 13-5 run, keyed by treys from Tucker, Michael Flowers and Clayton Hanson to go up 30-22 with 4:26 left in the half. At one point, UW was 6 of 7 from behind the three-point arc.
OSU got the lead down to 30-27 after a Foster three-pointer and a Dials bank shot with 3:13 left. But UW scored the last seven points of the half. Tucker had a three-point play, Flowers had a layup inside and Tucker gave UW its 37-27 halftime lead with a slashing layup with 42 seconds left.
Things went from bad to worse for Ohio State early in the second half as the Buckeyes made just one of their first eight shots from the floor. UW took advantage behind a rebound basket by Andreas Helmigk, a three-pointer by Hanson and a Helmigk reverse to go up 44-29 with 16:02 left.
OSU rallied with J.J. Sullinger scoring on an inbounds play, Sylvester making a free throw and Tony Stockman canning a three-pointer to cut the lead to 44-35 with 11:16 left. The Buckeyes still trailed 48-39 after Dials made a pair of free throws with 8:50 left, but they would get no closer until the final minute.
Wisconsin's Sharif Chambliss stuck a big 16-foot jumper to beat the shot clock and push the lead back out to 50-39 with 8:14 left.
Tucker's three-point play with 3:45 left extended the lead to 58-44 with 3:45 left.
Sullinger, Jamar Butler, Je'Kel Foster, Brandon Fuss-Cheatham and Tony Stockman all had five points for OSU, while Ivan Harris had three.
* Dials became the 42nd player in OSU history to reach 1,000 career points with a free throw with 10:21 left in the first half.
"It is an accomplishment," Dials said. "But really, I can't feel good about that after the way we played.
"I am happy that my teammates helped me to get that milestone."
* OSU still leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 80-60, including 50-20 in Columbus. The Buckeyes are 3-3 against Wisconsin in VCA.
* The Buckeyes fell to 13-2 inside VCA and 14-2 at home (one game was at St. John Arena) this year. Ohio State is now 90-22 all-time in seven years at VCA.
* OSU fell to 130-212 all-time against ranked opponents, including 1-3 this year.
* Matta's record dropped to 67-8 all-time in home games in his five-year coaching career. His teams now have a combined mark of 10-12 against ranked opponents. This loss also dropped his coaching record to 29-7 all-time in February, including 4-3 this year.
* OSU wraps the regular season by visiting Iowa (17-10, 5-9) Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPN-Plus). The Hawkeyes blistered Penn State 78-56 Saturday in State College. The Buckeyes then close the home schedule against No. 1-ranked Illinois (28-0, 14-0) next Sunday. That game has been moved from 2 p.m. to noon to accommodate a national CBS telecast.
Matta and the players discussed how the team will rebound from this defeat.
"I don't think this is a game where you can sit around and feel sorry for yourself for more than about two hours," Sylvester said. "We need to get back to basics. We have two huge games that are just as important as the game tonight. We have the No. 1 team coming in and a tough team at Iowa."
Matta added, "We have to get back tomorrow and continue to teach and coach and work. We had a bad one today. I know the road gets tougher. We go to Iowa. I know we will have to play great basketball if we want to have a chance to win. I know we will have to play great basketball next Sunday if we're going to have a chance to win.
"It's not acceptable to not compete at the level we need to compete against anybody, let alone a great team like Wisconsin."