Wisconsin’s offense was able to go on runs throughout the game but could never find a way to put enough separation between them and Ohio State. Wisconsin jumped out to an 11-0 lead to begin the game on 5-for-8 (62.5 percent) shooting and shot 7-for-11 over Wisconsin’s first 17 points.
But the strong shooting that Wisconsin displayed at the beginning of the game did stop for a brief moment. Starting at the 13:33 mark in the first half; Wisconsin went 2-for-10 from the field over a 7:11 span. The poor shooting by Wisconsin allowed Ohio State to take the lead for a brief moment (26 seconds in fact) before Bronson Koenig hit a 3-pointer with 6:44 left in the first half to give Wisconsin the lead for good. The three by Koenig sparked Wisconsin to finish the half 6-for-13 from the field.
Wisconsin was able to avoid the scoring droughts in the second half, which was critical to the win with Ohio State consistently finding ways of cutting into UW leads. The Badgers led by as many as 12 points with 9:25 to go in the game, but Ohio State was able to cut it to two points with 4:03 remaining. Like they did the entire game, Wisconsin was able to answer any run Ohio State put together, finishing the last four minutes of the game on a 14-5 run by going 3-for-3 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line.
The Badgers got balance scoring against Ohio State with seven different contributors. After only scoring three points in the first half, Nigel Hayes led the Badgers with 21 points on 6-for-15 shooting. Koenig was second with 13 points, while Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown each had 12 points. The 12 points by Brown was his first game in double figures in Big Ten play in his career. Jordan Hill registered nine points off the bench, including a huge 3-pointer late, and Zak Showalter and Alex Illikainen each finished with six points on a pair of 3-pointers. Overall Wisconsin shot 28-for-57 (49.1 percent) from the field.
Wisconsin had been struggling to shoot 3-point shots this season but delivered in a big way with a 13-for-27 (48.1 percent) night. The 13 made 3-pointers was the most three’s made by Wisconsin since the 13 it made in the Big Ten Tournament championship game against Michigan State last season. A total of six UW players made a 3-point shot and five of those six made at least two attempts. Koenig and Hill led the team with three makes each and combined to shoot 6-for-11.
Wisconsin knew it was going to have to find a way to slow down leading scorer Marc Loving (13.3 ppg). They accomplished that goal, holding Loving to six points on 2-for-7 shooting, but the Badgers were hurt by JaQuan Lyle and his game-high 27 points off the bench on 11-for-19 shooting. Lyle was a big reason why Ohio State stayed within arm’s reach off UW, as he scored 18 of Ohio State’s 32 first-half points.
Outside of Lyle, Kam Williams was the only player to score in double figures for Ohio State with 10 points off the bench. Jae’Sean Tate and Trevor Thompson each finished the game with nine points. Overall Ohio State shot 26-for-58 (44.8 percent) from the field.
Wisconsin too often allowed Ohio State to have easy looks in the paint, scoring a total of 32 points inside and turning 10 offensive rebounds into 13 points. The interior defense by Wisconsin started to shore up in the second half though, holding the Buckeyes to just 12 points inside. When Wisconsin kept Ohio State out of the paint, they saw the success of Ohio State’s offense slow down. The Buckeyes went 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) from 3-point range.
Despite allowing Ohio State to have easy chances down low, Wisconsin still found ways of generating extra offensive possessions by forcing 11 turnovers - Wisconsin’s fourth straight game of forcing double-digit turnovers and the fifth time over the last six games. Three of Wisconsin’s five starters registered a steal and converted the turnovers into 10 points.
Hayes made many good plays in the second half but one of his better ones was when he registered a defensive rebound off of a missed shot by Loving with Wisconsin up by nine points. Showalter called for the ball so he could run the point, but Hayes waved him off. As soon as Hayes got the ball up the court, he was able to locate an open Khalil Iverson underneath the basket. Iverson was able to kick the ball out to an open Illikainen in the corner for three to give Wisconsin its biggest lead of the game at 12 points.
Wisconsin registered its largest victory during its current five game winning streak, even though it couldn’t deliver the final nail in the coffin until the final minute. However, Wisconsin always appeared in relative control of the game, even when Ohio State was making its runs, and gave fans the sense that the Badgers were going to deliver a counter response.
The perimeter game helped alleviate some of the problems Wisconsin knew it was going to encounter inside. The Buckeyes entered the game giving up only 28.4 points in the paint and blocking over five shots a game. UW finished with 24 points in the paint but did a better job attacking in the second half, which in turned opened more opportunities from the perimeter. After going 7-for-18 from 3-point range in the first half, UW was a much more efficient 6-for-9 in the second half.
One of the biggest three’s in the game was made by Hill, whose shot was set up by Hayes with 1:41 remaining. Hayes had the ball in the paint but didn’t have an opportunity to use one of his post moves to attempt a layup against Ohio State’s size. Hayes was able to locate an open Hill at the top of the perimeter, and the junior was able to knock down a three to put Wisconsin up by eight.
Although Hayes was able to register multiple key plays in the game, he did tie the team lead with three of Wisconsin’s 11 turnovers. Ohio State was able to capitalize off of Wisconsin’s miscues as they registered 19 points.
Despite the turnovers Wisconsin stayed in a rhythm on offense by generating 13 offensive rebounds, its most since the Penn State game (13). Brown and Hill led the team with three offensive rebounds each and Illikainen had two, as Wisconsin was able to convert its second chances into nine points. Overall Wisconsin was able to win the rebounding battle 36-27.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. Like he has done so many times this year. Hayes rebounded from a poor stretch to deliver a big performance. Despite shooting 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, Hayes responded by going 5-for-8 in the second half and shot 2-for-3 from 3-point range. He scored six of Wisconsin’s last 13 points in the game and registered an assist on Hill’s critical three. Overall Hayes attempted 10 of Wisconsin’s 17 free throws and connected on seven. Outside of Hayes’ seventh 20-plus game, he led the Badgers with seven rebounds, had three assists and two steals.