Badgers Exact Revenge On Buckeyes

One season ago, Ohio State used a last-second runner by Mike Conley Jr. to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers in a showdown between the nation's top two teams. This year, the hype was not the same and neither was the outcome as the Badgers dealt the Buckeyes' tournament hopes a further blow at Value City Arena.

Ohio State had perhaps its last, best opportunity Feb. 23 to make an NCAA Tournament statement and couldn't close the deal.

The Buckeyes had No. 10-ranked and Big Ten co-leader Wisconsin repeatedly on the ropes before an announced crowd of 19,049 at Value City Arena but wound up on the losing end of a 58-53 decision. The defeat dropped OSU's record to 17-10 overall and 8-6 in the conference.

"In a game like this, when you're playing a tough team like Wisconsin, you have to put yourself in a position to win and I thought we did that," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "We talked all week about the fact that we were going to have to make some plays. We were where we wanted to be (at the end) and the basketball just didn't go down for us.

"We did have some careless turnovers that cost us in the first half, but I told these guys that something good will start to happen for us. But we have to continue to work hard and make our own breaks."

The OSU head coach didn't make things easier for his team at the outset by benching senior co-captain Jamar Butler after 95 consecutive starts. Matta did not give an answer when asked why Butler did not start, saying only it was "my decision" and that his team practiced extensively during the week without Butler in the lineup.

Nevertheless, Butler came off the bench to score 14 points and pass out five assists while playing all but the first four minutes of the game.

Ohio State simply couldn't hold a lead against Wisconsin. Despite the fact the game featured a dozen different lead changes and was tied six times, the Buckeyes enjoyed a first-half lead of 17-10 and led by as many as four points with nearly 15 minutes to go in the game. But the Badgers (23-4, 13-2) got hot with a 17-6 run down the stretch while OSU went scoreless after a pair of Butler free throws at the 3:14 mark.

After connecting on 46.4 percent (13 of 28) of their shots in the first half, the Buckeyes went collectively cold after intermission. They made only 7 of 26 attempts in the second half for a chilly 26.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin wasn't much better. The Badgers shot only 34.5 percent (10 for 29) in the second half after firing at a 54.5-percent clip (12 for 22) in the first 20 minutes.

After a reporter asked Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan if his defense rose to the occasion down the stretch, the coach replied sarcastically, "Yeah. They made one basket in the last five or six minutes and how many did we have? Two?

"I thought both team seemed to rush things. I know we rushed a few shots and took some off-balance shots. We seemed like we were in a hurry or something and didn't settle for the looks that we usually get. I'm not exactly sure why that was."

UW landed three players in double figures with backup guard Jason Bohannon leading the way. He came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points, including making 4 of 6 three-point attempts. Starting guard Michael Flowers added 14 points for the Badgers and forward Marcus Landry added 10 to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Freshman center Kosta Koufos was the only other Buckeye besides Butler to score in double figures. He had 10 points and added a game-high 10 rebounds to record his seventh double-double of the season and third in a row.

The Buckeyes had some initial problems in the point as freshmen Evan Turner and Jon Diebler took turns trying to run the offense in Butler's absence and Wisconsin jumped out to a 7-4 lead. But Butler appeared after the first media timeout and Ohio State immediately settled down.

The senior point guard immediately canned a three-point shot, touching off a 13-2 rally for the Buckeyes that earned them a 17-10 lead at the 8:22 mark of the first half.

But OSU couldn't sustain the rally. Wisconsin scored seven of the game's next nine points to cut the gap to 19-17 with 5:38 remaining.

That began a back-and-forth between the teams until the Badgers started raining threes in the final two minutes of the half. Butler hit a jumper to make it 27-23 in favor of the Buckeyes before Flowers bagged a pair of treys sandwiched around a single free throw from Turner.

Flowers' second three ball gave the Badgers a 29-28 advantage until Koufos bagged a jumper with 57.2 seconds left to give the lead back to OSU. But the teams went to their respective locker rooms tied at 32-32 after Bohannon knocked down a three and Koufos jammed in an offensive rebound with 3.1 seconds left.

The Buckeyes could have enjoyed a first-half lead had they been able to score near the basket. OSU blew seven layups including one by sophomore David Lighty at the buzzer after stealing the ball away from Wisconsin guard Joe Krabbenhoft.

The second half didn't begin much better as the Buckeyes missed three more layups in the early going but still managed to take a 43-39 lead with 14:58 remaining. But the Badgers started scoring in bunches from there, scoring 17 of the game's next 23 points to take a 56-49 advantage at the 5:08 mark.

OSU still managed to stay close and righted itself enough to climb back within three points at 56-53 with 3:14 remaining but couldn't execute down the stretch. The Buckeyes misfired on three straight times down the court – including two more layups – but it was still a three-point game when Matta called a timeout with 42.5 seconds left and another 11 seconds later to set up a potential game-tying shot.

But again the Buckeyes could not execute on offense. Butler tried to get a skip pass to Koufos that was knocked away by the Badgers, and by the time the OSU senior regained possession, the shot clock was winding down and he was forced to fire up a 35-footer. The shot caught nothing but air and Landry raced the length of the floor for a dunk to close out the win.

The Buckeyes will be in action again Feb. 26 when they travel to Indiana. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern and the game will be telecast by ESPN.

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