It was the only thing OSU had to hang its hat on as it dropped its eighth consecutive road game to the Badgers, 65-43. It was the lowest scoring output from the Buckeyes in the Matta era.
Wisconsin (11-2, 1-0 Big Ten) did everything it needed to do at home to begin conference play with a win. In addition to scoring more points, the Badgers held the advantage on the glass (34-25), committed one less turnover and assisted on 15 of 21 field goals.
"We were reacting to everything Wisconsin was doing," Matta told the Ohio State Basketball Radio Network. "There was no attack to us. We were allowing them to have their way."
At the break, OSU (10-3, 0-1) had just one offensive rebound. Still, the Buckeyes trailed by nine points and were one run away from making it a game until Wisconsin's Jon Leuer drilled a trey on his team's first possession of the second half, pushing his team's lead to 37-25.
The visitors would never get the lead to less than 10 points the rest of the way.
"Wisconsin plays such a deliberate style, an eight-point lead for them is like a 16-point lead because the time keeps coming off the clock," Matta said.
William Buford led the Buckeyes with 14 points, and he had to work for every one of them. He finished the game 7 for 16 from the floor and left with a tweaked right knee after scoring his final basket with 7:36 remaining. One game after pouring in a career-high 30 points, junior swingman David Lighty finished with 10 points and committed four turnovers against one assist.
Matta said Buford knocked knees with an opponent and could have gone back into the game had the situation called for it.
The Buckeyes entered the game with a conference-leading .524 shooting percentage, but they connected on 14 of 43 shots – a .326 percentage. "I thought we had some decent looks but the ball wasn't going in the basket," Matta said. "You can't go on the road and not put the ball in the basket. Our defense was never getting set."
After jumping out to an early 7-2 lead, the Buckeyes would not show life again until the waning minutes of the first half. Led primarily by guard Trevon Hughes, who scored 13 of his team's first 19 points, the Badgers pulled ahead at 9-7 and did not trail for the rest of the half.
Wisconsin's lead ballooned to 16 points with a jumper by Jason Bohannon with 6:21 remaining, but the Buckeyes fought back from there. A P.J. Hill three-pointer with 4:19 remaining snapped an 0-for-7 shooting slump for the team and started what would be an 11-4 run to close the half and set the score at 34-25.
It could have been closer. Wisconsin held the ball for the final shot of the half leading by seven when OSU senior guard Jeremie Simmons committed a foul with 8.1 seconds left, putting the Buckeyes at six team fouls. Undeterred, Wisconsin inbounded the ball to Jordan Taylor, who promptly beat Simmons off the dribble and drew a foul.
He hit the subsequent free throws to close out the scoring for the half.
Hughes led the Badgers with 16 points.
"There's obviously a lot of areas where we've got to play better," Matta said. "It's got to start with our intensity, our passion and just having more of a team concept of when one of us gets scored on, we all get scored on. That has to bother everybody involved."