It can't be said enough—there's no place like home. After an embarrassing loss at Northwestern and a nail-biting two-point victory over Iowa, No. 14 Wisconsin (8-2 Big Ten, 17-4 overall) made it look easy Saturday night, pounding Ohio State 78-48.
With the win Wisconsin remained on top the Big Ten standings, a half-game ahead of Michigan State.
After a slow start that allowed the Buckeyes (3-7, 11-12) to jump out to an early four-point lead, Wisconsin barreled back due in large part to early foul trouble for OSU. By the end of the first half, Wisconsin had forced the Buckeyes into committing 17 fouls and had scored 18 points from the free throw line. The Badgers managed to play tough, clean defense against Ohio State, only allowing the Buckeyes to get to the line once.
"We had … three starters on the bench with two fouls each," OSU coach Jim O'Brien said. "And at that point they had committed only one foul."
Ohio State refused to lie down, however, and with 2:47 left, the Buckeyes took the lead on sophomore guard Ricardo Billings' dunk. Billings, though, was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim. That, combined with a missed goal tending call that should have gone against the Buckeyes just moments before, riled up the packed house at the Kohl Center and spurred the Badgers onto a 9-0 run to close out the first half with a 36-28 lead.
The second half marked another dazzling performance by Wisconsin junior guard Devin Harris. Harris scored 10 successive points for the Badgers in one stretch, part of a 33-point evening, including 16 that came from the line. Harris is the first Badger to score at least thirty points in three games in one season since Michael Finley did so 10 years ago.
"Devin Harris basically took the game over during that one stretch when they really, really pulled away," O'Brien said. "He's every bit as good as any guard I've seen in college basketball in a while."
Defensively, the Badgers clamped down on OSU, allowing only six field goals in the second half and forcing eight Buckeyes into foul trouble. The fans obviously got into the Ohio State players' heads, such as when senior center Velimir Radinovic made an obscene gesture to the Wisconsin student section, further enticing the crowd.
"The fans just kept encouraging our guys to play good defense and they appreciate good defense…guys diving on the floor, guys playing hard, any loose ball, taking charges," coach Bo Ryan said.
Junior guard Clayton Hanson had another solid game with 10 points. Junior forward Mike Wilkinson continued to prove why he and Harris are one of the most dangerous one-two punches in the Big 10. Wilkinson had 14 points and made a significant impact on the defensive end.
Wisconsin next heads back to the road with Illinois on Wednesday and Michigan next Sunday. The Illini have bounced back after early struggles and sit just one game behind the Badgers in the Big 10 standings.
Badgers get defensive - sidebar