Ohio State's tendency to double off screens – along the perimeter or in the post – had given Mike Wilkinson and company a series of open looks. Wilkinson took advantage, knocking down a pair of open 3-pointers, then powering his way up for a layup after a nice pass from senior point guard Sharif Chambliss.
Mix in an Alando Tucker dunk and a Clayton Hanson triple and the Badgers led 13-4 five minutes, nine seconds into the game, a stark difference from their struggles against Michigan State Thursday, when open shots and offensive opportunity were few and far between.
About minute later, though, and with the score still 13-4 Wisconsin, Wilkinson was called for this second foul. He took a seat on the bench the rest of the first half.
Suddenly, the Badgers' offense stagnated. OSU collapsed around Tucker and his UW teammates seemed hesitant, waiting for someone to take initiative.
So Tucker took over. He fought through a double team and drew a foul in the lane, making a pair of free throws to put UW up 15-7.
But after Zach Morley's jumper made it 17-7, the Badgers' offense temporarily imploded, with five consecutive empty trips down the floor, including a stretch of three consecutive turnovers.
The Buckeyes jumped all over the opportunity, rattling off a 10-0 run to tie it at 17-17, punctuated by Terence Dials' dunk with 9:14 left in the first half.
Another Dials dunk made it 19-19 less than a minute later. Then Tucker put Wisconsin's offense on his back.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore forward missed a short jumper after working through a double team in the lane. But Tucker skied for the offensive rebound and connected on a hanging one-handed jumper to give UW a 21-19 lead.
On Wisconsin's next possession, Tucker pulled up along the wing and knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 24-19 UW at 5:44.
Tucker's work re-opened the perimeter for the Badgers' outside shooters and Michael Flowers and Clayton Hanson confidently hit consecutive triples to cap an 11-3 run and extend the lead to 30-22 at 4:31.
Dials, who almost single-handedly kept OSU in the game in the first half, made a tough bank shot from the right block to narrow the gap to 30-27 with just over three minutes left.
Tucker, however, sparked a 7-0 run to close out the first half. He converted a 3-point play after drawing a foul on an alley-oop layup, assisted on Flowers' double pump layup, and capped the run with a tough runner in the lane.
All told, Tucker scored 12 of his 14 first-half points with Wilkinson on the bench with foul trouble and he tallied 10 of the Badgers' last 18 points before halftime.
It was a necessary performance considering Dials' incredible first half, when he made 7 of 9 shots, almost all layups or dunks after catching lob passes in the lane, for an impressive 16 points.
Wisconsin, though, led 37-27 at halftime and the Badgers shut down Dials in the second half, barely allowing him to touch the ball. Dials made his only field goal attempt after halftime and was 2 of 2 from the foul line, but was held to just four points in the final 20 minutes.
Andreas Helmigk, who played 10 solid minutes in the second half on his way to a career high 26 minutes, scored on a pair of reverse layups against Dials to help UW build a 44-29 lead early in the second half, and Wisconsin methodically ran its offense from there, only allowing the Buckeyes to break within single digits three times.
Tucker added five points after halftime for a team-high 19, but it was his assertive play in the opening half that propelled UW to victory.
With the win the Badgers (9-5 Big Ten, 18-7 overall) remained tied with Indiana (9-5, 14-11) for third place in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers upset visiting Michigan State in overtime Sunday and will travel to take on the Badgers Tuesday evening.
Notable: Wisconsin is now 7-0 this season following a loss… The Badgers became only the second team this season to beat Ohio State in Columbus and have now won six of their last seven matchups with the Buckeyes… Clayton Hanson was 3 of 5 from the 3-point line Sunday and is now shooting .464 from beyond the arc this season, which would be the sixth-best single-season mark in UW history. Tracy Webster, now an assistant coach at Illinois, set the record in 1992, shooting 49 percent (75 of 153)…. Tucker's 36 minutes played were one off his season high. He has now played 30 minutes or more in a game 14 times this season, including five of the past six games… Tucker led UW in scoring for the second consecutive game and the 11th time this season. He led the team in rebounding (nine Sunday) for the eighth time…. Wisconsin's 13-rebound edge (37-24) was its second highest of the conference season, bettered only by a 47-32 edge at Michigan Jan. 22. Ohio State actually out-rebounded the Badgers 35-34 when the teams met up in Madison Jan. 11… UW made 8 of 15 3-pointers, marking the fourth time the Badgers have made at least 50 percent of their triples in a game this season.