The triple gave Wilkinson a career-high 29 points and propelled Wisconsin to a 72-66 win at the Kohl Center, extending its nation-leading home winning streak to 37 games.
"He had an incredible night…That was one of those nights that we think all players kind of dream about," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "We didn't have any answers for him down there."
Wisconsin (11-3 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) won despite playing without leading scorer Alando Tucker, who sat out with a lower right leg injury.
Wilkinson did it all for the Badgers. He scored 10 of UW's first 17 points to open the game, then tallied 13 of its first 18 to begin the second half. He was 8-for-8 from the field after halftime and finished with 19 second-half points.
"When he steps out and he's knocking down jumpers and throwing in jump hooks, that's tough to stop," Matta said.
Just as important as his scoring, Wilkinson drew the third and fourth fouls of the game on Ohio State junior forward Terence Dials, forcing the Buckeyes' best player to sit on the bench for an 8-minute, 20-second stretch in the second half.
Wisconsin led by 13 on three occasions in the second half, but Ohio State (12-4, 1-2) chipped away at the lead, closing to 61-57 with 2:39 left to play.
One possession later, Wilkinson set a screen along the 3-point line for sophomore guard Kammron Taylor, who drew a double team and passed back to Wilkinson for the open triple to the right of the circle.
"It was a quick-hitting elbow ball screen reversed," Matta said. "We didn't need to hedge it. It happened so quick there."
"On Mike's it's a simple screen and then if they hedge real hard you just separate," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
"That's a shot that we work on all year," Wilkinson said. "As soon as I shot it it felt good. We just needed to go down and get some stops then."
Taylor hit 1 of 2 free throws at 1:41 but Buckeye junior forward Matt Sylvester hit a 3-pointer and Dials made 1 of 2 from the line to draw Ohio State back within 65-61.
UW senior forward Zach Morley then stepped to free throw line with 47 seconds left and promptly missed both shots. Badger senior guard Clayton Hanson, however, cut behind Dials and corralled the rebound at the left block, drew a foul and made both shots to give Wisconsin a 67-61 lead with 45.1 seconds left to play.
"I just recognized throughout the game that they were pinching down so hard," Hanson said. "Knowing that I wasn't going to get to the middle I thought I'd take the other route."
The Badgers made 5 of 8 free throws the rest of the way, including 3 of 4 from Hanson.
Dials fouled out with 15 seconds left, leaving the game with a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds in just 24 minutes.
Wilkinson saved the best for last. He made just one of his first four shots as Ohio State built an 8-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game. The Badgers kept feeding Wilkinson in the post, however, and he kept shooting, making his next three shots. His two free throws with 7:26 left in the first half closed the Ohio State lead to 20-17.
"We were up 20-15 and we were almost apologizing for it," said Matta, whose team led for an 11:08 stretch in the first half but could not build a lead larger than six points.
"Having that lead there we were content to trade buckets with them; almost like, ‘hey, geez, how'd we get here?'" Matta said. "That's just I think having more of a belief in ourselves that we can play this game."
Dials scored 10 of the Buckeyes' first 14 points, giving Ohio State a 14-10 lead at the 12:20 mark in the first half. He did not score again, however, until an emphatic dunk with 5:48 left in the second half trimmed Wisconsin's lead to 59-49.
The culprit was foul trouble. Dials sat out the final 6:08 of the first half after picking up his second foul. Hanson's two free throws at that mark narrowed Ohio State's lead to 20-19.
Moments later Sharif Chambliss weaved his way to the right wing and drilled a transition 3-pointer, giving Wisconsin its first lead since Wilkinson's first bucket made it 2-0. Chambliss hit his second consecutive triple at 5:12 to give the Badgers a 25-21 advantage.
Buckeye junior guard J.J. Sullinger made a turnaround over Hanson to give Ohio State its last lead, 26-25, but the Buckeyes would fail to score in the final 3:56 of the first half, allowing Wisconsin to close the period with a 6-0 run, punctuated by freshman guard Michael Flowers' last-second tip-in of a Chambliss missed 3-pointer.
After making 4 of 10 first-half shots, Wilkinson took over in the second half. He drew a foul on Dials and converted a 3-point play one minute, 20 seconds into the second session to give the Badgers a 36-26 lead and scored over Dials to make it 41-29 with 17:28 left to play. At 15:46 Wilkinson drew Dials' fourth foul, a touchy hand check violation in a non-shooting situation.
"I missed a lot of bunnies in the first half," Wilkinson said. "The guys kept giving me the ball in good position to finish and I didn't knock some of them down. They continued to give me the ball in the second half and everything felt good. Once I knocked down a couple they just kind of fell from there. Just got on a roll."
With Dials out of the game until the 7:26 mark, Ohio State turned to 6-foot-10, 260-pound senior center Matt Marinchick to check Wilkinson.
Wilkinson took full advantage, using his quickness to get free in the post and force Marinchick to play off him away from the block. Marinchick obliged and Wilkinson knocked down several mid-range jumpers.
"That rim was as big as the ocean to him tonight," Matta said.
The Buckeyes drew no closer than within seven points before Dials re-entered. His layup at 5:03 kicked off the 8-0 run.
Wisconsin, though, was true to the challenge, particularly Wilkinson, who also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, including nine defensive boards. It was Wilkinson's pressure on Dials that freed Hanson for his key offensive rebound.
Wilkinson made another clutch play with 50.5 seconds left and the Badgers clinging to a 65-61 lead; he grabbed a defensive rebound and called timeout to avoid an Ohio State trap near the baseline.
"He's a heady player," Ryan said. "He likes to compete."
Wilkinson had two chances to crack the 30-point plateau but he missed a pair of free throws with three seconds left. He finished 4 of 7 from the free throw line, including a 2 of 5 mark in the second half.