Jared Berggren was brutalized by sophomore Jared Sullinger in the team's Feb.4 meeting in Madison, eventually leading to his second-half benching, and Jordan Taylor had a key turnover late that sealed their fate in another head-scratching home loss.
So after both had another subpar outing Thursday, both dealt with it … and put a hurting on the eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
"If you want to look at our resume or whatever for seeding, this definitely gives us kind of a signature win," said Berggren, one of the key players in helping No.16 Wisconsin earn a hard fought 63-60 victory over No.8 Ohio State at Value City Arena. "A top-10 team, one of the best teams in the country … to come into their place and get a win is huge for us."
It's rare, too. Before Sunday, Wisconsin (21-8, 10-6 Big Ten) hadn't won a road game over a Big Ten team ranked in the AP Top 10 since Jan. 26, 1980 when they beat No. 4 Ohio State, a UW team that coach Bo Ryan was an assistant on. Now UW is one win or one Indiana loss away from clinching a top four finish in the conference in all 11 years under Ryan because Berggren (18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal) and Taylor (19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 turnovers) took over in the final six minutes.
After Aaron Craft's jumper put Ohio State (23-6, 11-5) up eight with 8:13 to go, its largest lead of the game, the Badgers closed the game on a 21-10 run – getting 10 points from Berggren and nine from Taylor. This production came after Berggren was held to 2-for-7 shooting, 0-for-2 from three, and just four points and Taylor managed only 9 points and four turnovers verse Iowa.
"Boy, (Taylor) really came up big for us … both he and Jared as far as scoring the points," said Ryan. "But the other guys got on the glass, got the loose balls. But you've still got to hit shots and those two did."
"We came off a tough loss against Iowa and to be able to come into an environment like this and get a win against a really good team – a great team – is big for us," Taylor added.
No shot on that final stretch was bigger for Wisconsin than Berggren. In a game that featured 22 lead changes and nine ties, Berggren drilled a 3-pointer off a high ball screen with 31 seconds left that put Wisconsin up 61-59.
"It was a big shot by him," said Taylor of the shot. "He's a really good player. He's just got to believe in himself and the sky's the limit for us."
After Deshaun Thomas (game-high 23 points) threw up a wild shot from the top of the key with eight seconds left, Berggren grabbed the rebound and made two free throws to ice the game. Those almost fail to compare to his work on Sullinger.
Sullinger scored 24 points – 16 in the first half - in Ohio State's 58-52 win earlier this month, a stat that Berggren took personally. This time, Berggren and company made it a tough challenge for Sullinger by matching his aggressiveness and making him work on every shot.
As a result, Sullinger, who Ohio State coach Thad Matta said was battling a cold, was held to eight points, nine below his average, on 4-of-10 shooting.
"That's big," said Berggren of Sullinger's pedestrian stat line. "You can't let him get to his comfort zones on the floor. You've got to try to limit his touches and put him in tough positions. If you let him catch it where he wants, he's going to score every time. He's a great player. You just try to work him every time down the floor and limit his effectiveness as much as possible."
Just as important as Wisconsin's finish was the Badgers' resolve. After UW took a 40-39 lead, Ohio State unleashed a 9-0 run while the Badgers went scoreless for almost five minutes. UW broke its troubles when Berggren and Taylor simply took over.
"You always measure people what it takes to discourage them, and if you get discouraged, if you get frustrated, it certainly doesn't help in the game of basketball," said Ryan. "So our guys stayed to the task. And sometimes the ball bounces a certain way and other times it's not your way, sometimes it is. But we just knuckled down and finally started to make some shots. The rim looks a little bigger when you can make a couple, and we definitely needed that."
As a result, Wisconsin has re-ignited its fan base and has people believing again that a deep tournament run is possible, especially after it finished 6-3 on the road in conference.