While star sophomore Evan Turner nursed four personal fouls down the stretch, junior point guards P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons came up huge for the Buckeyes. Turner snapped a 55-55 tie with a short jumper with 58.7 seconds left, and then Hill sank one free throw at the 32.6 mark and another with 17.5 seconds remaining.
After Wisconsin guard Brian Bohannon sank his own pair of foul shots with 8.7 seconds left to make it 59-57, Simmons dropped in two shots from the charity stripe to account for the winning margin.
That the game was decided by five points or less was no coincidence. Seven of the last eight times the Buckeyes and Badgers have faced one another, the winning margin was five points or less.
"That wasn't a surprise," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "We felt it was going to come down to the wire. But as I told the guys with about 12 minutes to go, Wisconsin had all the juice. Somehow we had to get that back in the last eight minutes."
The Badgers appeared to have seized momentum when Bohannon buried a deep three-pointer at the 6:01 mark give his team a 54-47 advantage, the largest lead in the game for either team. Then the Buckeyes appeared to turn up the pressure on both ends of the court. As they reeled off 14 of the game's final 17 points, the Badgers went ice cold and didn't hit another shot from the field after Bohannon's trey.
Wisconsin started the game by missing 11 of its first 16 shots and didn't warm up much for the rest of the game. The Badgers finished only 18 of 50 (36.0 percent) for the game. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes took 12 fewer shots but made their opportunities count. They wound up an even 50.0 percent from the field, making 19 of 38 attempts.
The end of the game was in sharp contrast to the lone other meeting this season between the two teams. In a 55-50 Wisconsin victory in Madison on Feb. 14, the Buckeyes were the team that went cold, going more than five minutes without a field goal in the second half.
"For us, we did a better job taking care of the basketball (from the first time we played them)," Matta said.
Turner added, "The game was ours to take. Up there in Madison, we didn't do anything to take it. Today, we made the rebounds and did what we needed to do to win this game."
Turner, who picked up his fourth personal with 3:59 remaining in the game, played fearlessly in the final minutes. He ran the point, crashed the boards and continually forced his will on the game.
"I'd say Turner proved why he is easily the best player in the league today," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "Why? Because he gets things done. Because of what he means to their team."
Turner finished with a game-high 19 points and added four rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
Wisconsin was led by junior guard Trevon Hughes, who had 15 points. But Hughes shot only 3 for 11 from the field and fouled out in the waning seconds. Bohannon added 13 points but also suffered an icy shooting touch. He made only 4 of 13 attempts.
Sophomore forward Jon Leuer totaled 11 points for the Badgers and senior swingman Joe Krabbenhoft took game-high honors with 10 rebounds.
The game was a nip and tuck affair for much of the afternoon as the contest was tied on seven occasions and the lead changed hands eight times. Wisconsin took an early 22-16 edge at the 4:54 mark of the opening half, but the Buckeyes ended on a 13-6 run to take a one-point advantage at 29-28 at the break.
The teams traded body blows again to open the second half with the lead going back and forth until the Badgers erased a 45-44 deficit by scoring seven points in a row to take a 51-45 lead with 6:50 left. Turner made two free throws at the other end to cut the margin to four points, but Bohannon swished his long three at the 6:01 mark.
It didn't appear so at the time, but it was Wisconsin's last stand. Hill hit the front end of a one-and-one with 4:55 left, and then Turner hit two foul shots with 4:09 remaining to make it 54-50.
Leuer drew Turner's fourth foul at the 3:59 mark, but the Wisconsin forward missed the front end of the bonus. Turner followed with a jumper and then sophomore Jon Diebler rattled in a three-point shot to give the Buckeyes a 55-54 lead with 2:23 left.
The Badgers tied the score at 55 when senior forward Marcus Landry made one of two free throws at the 1:43 mark and then the Buckeyes closed things out.
Ohio State (21-9) advances to play top-seeded Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament. The teams are scheduled for a 1:40 p.m. Saturday tipoff, and the game will be televised by CBS.