The Buckeyes battled back from a 16-point second-half deficit to make things a bit interesting in front of a hostile Wisconsin home crowd. However, a 3-point look by Jamar Butler at the buzzer drew the back of the iron, preserving a 72-69 Badger victory against No. 5 Ohio State.
Ohio State stayed competitive until a 21-5 second half run lifted the Badgers to a double-digit lead after the game was tied at 36-36. However, the 57-41 lead for Wisconsin began evaporating over the last five minutes, as Ohio State outscored Wisconsin 28-12 in the last 7-9 minutes.
Wisconsin doubled-up Ohio State with points in the paint, despite the presence of Greg Oden. The 7-1 freshman finished the game with 10 points, seven rebounds and six blocks, although much of his damage came in the last five minutes.
Ohio State turned it's focus to 6-5 Alando Tucker, the preseason All-American pick. Although Tucker did finish with 17 points on 8-of-17 shooting, it was a combined 35 points on 10-of-17 shooting from guards Michael Flowers and Kammron Taylor that did in the Buckeyes in a key early Big Ten battle. Taylor alone accounted for 25 points and six rebounds.
It was the outside shooting of Ohio State that left Ohio State with barely a pulse. Ohio State canned 12 3-pointers, to just 5-of-16 for Wisconsin, making up for the large discrepency inside.
* Ohio State had too many sloppy and careless turnovers - errant bounce passes, throwing passes with no clear passing lane, dribbling the ball of a foot, etc. Ohio State wasted several possessions in the second half where they could have cut into a Wisconsin lead after coming up with a good defensive stand at the other end.
* Credit the Wisconsin defense for intimidating Ohio State on the interior. Not only did the Badgers limit Oden's touches inside, and prevent him from turning to the middle, every time Ohio State penetrated the lane, Wisconsin either drew a charge or blocked a shot.
* Shot fakes and ball fakes continue to annoy educated basketball observers of Ohio State. Lewis was a particular culprit Tuesday night, falling no fewer than four times for a shot fake or ball fake, causing him to leave his feet. Two of those times, it caused a personal foul. Usually when a defender goes for the fakes, it's because they were not in defensive position. In these cases, Lewis was late in getting to his man, making him more succeptable to the fake.
* Transition defense for Ohio State was putrid, although many of Wisconsin's fastbreak points came after turnovers on the high perimeter and top of the key.
* Fouls late in the shot clock also hurt Ohio State, including a couple of the fakes Ohio State bit on. For a team struggling to improve defensively, the Buckeyes showed a lot of positive signs defensively but bailed out Wisconsin with less than five seconds on the clock on several possessions.
* Free throws are hurting Ohio State. Oden is given a pass because he's shooting left-handed, but Mike Conley has struggled this year (shooting only around 60 percent).
* After taking several steps forward, Othello Hunter took a step back against Wisconsin. The 6-9 junior was pushed out of his comfort zone against Wisconsin, and forced to put the ball on the floor - something he's not yet ready to do on a consistent basis.
* Daequan Cook forced too many mid-range jumpers, rushing his shots. Several times he grabbed an offensive rebound of a shot he missed or had blocked, and out of frustration, forced another shot. This chaotic play was not limited to Cook. David Lighty also has been penetrating much more - a plus, but doing so out of control and not attempting to just pull-up on occasion and settle for an open 8-foot jumper.
* Oden continues to be indecisive at times as to which hand to use. Further, he's not yet demanding the ball (making himself big) and when he does, his teammates are missing him.
* Ohio State's ball movement in the first half was completely non-existent. Ohio State was impatient offensively and getting caught too much in the emotion of the atmosphere and allowing themselves to play at a frantic pace, conducive to implosion in a hostile environment. Ohio State will continue to lose to disciplined teams on the road in the future if Ohio State does not begin playing with more discipline and a more organized offense. Although the talent is there, and the basic scheme is not a problem, Matta will have to better emphasize ball-movement, penetration and inside-outside play if his teams are ever to live up to expectations. There is too much standing around on offense and often times no flow because of the lack of movement.
* Lewis and Butler both took steps towards regaining their confidence Tuesday, showing signs of returning to form down the stretch. Butler has been much more assertive over the last several games. He had some key turnovers, but he also put the ball on the deck and tried to create better opportunities for his team.
* Credit the Ohio State 2-3 zone Tuesday. It was a step in the right direction for a team that has been miserable in the zone previously. Conley and especially Butler were extremely active in the zone, and Ohio State won the battle in terms of keeping Tucker outside of 8-feet (most of the time) and challenging Jason Chappell to take shots he wasn't comfortable with by letting Oden continue to sag in the paint. Ohio State was killed by second-chance rebounds or long rebounds where the Buckeye defenders didn't re-locate their man, allowing open looks for Taylor or Flowers. The zone itself was a success for Ohio State in my opinion.
* Despite the frantic pace and the constant pressure by the Badger defense (Tucker, Flowers and Marcus Landry especially) in the frontcourt, Ohio State is credited with continuing to be assertive on the offensive end and attacking off the dribble.
* Ohio State did a terrific job on the glass Tuesday. Ohio State had 14 offensive rebounds, although Wisconsin did a better job limiting Ohio State to one shot in the second half.
* It's at the point in the season where moral victories do no such good for Ohio State, but battling back and making it so the Buckeyes had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer was good for the psyche of a young team. The good news for Ohio State is that Wisconsin was expected to win the game at home in terms of the Big Ten race, so Ohio State will have their chance to get that back in February in Columbus.
Overall, it was the turnovers at inopportune times that cost Ohio State. Wisconsin's guards stepped up and they beat Ohio State in transition and limited Ohio State's frontcourt scoring. Those keys propelled Wisconsin to victory.
Ohio State has a chance to get that win back. They will host the Badgers Feb. 25 in Columbus with a chance to even the score. Very few teams beat Wisconsin in Madison, and Tuesday was a good illustration of why not.
In a game of 40 minutes, it's amazing that so many little things can mean the difference between a 3-point win, a 3-point loss or a 16-point loss. Those minor details are the same things Ohio State has continued to struggle with. Inexperience or not, the Buckeyes must begin to improve their offensive flow, eliminating careless mistakes, rotating on defense - especially late in the possession and ultimately gain an identity beyond just taking a lot of 3-pointers in order to be a factor in March.
Wisconsin is coached to beat teams one point at a time. Instead, Ohio State is still trying to beat teams three points at a time. Tuesday, Ohio State enjoyed a 21-point advantage from behind the arc and still lost - proof positive that the Buckeyes will win these road games when they learn the little things.