Tucker – the ESPN big man on campus and Sports Illustrated feature subject – was kept relatively in check for most of the evening. Of course, for Tucker that still meant 17 points and six rebounds on 8-for-18 shooting.
Taylor got the ball rolling in the first half as he deftly knocked down two 3-pointers from the same spot on the court. The senior guard led all scorers with 25 on 5-of-8 shooting and a 12-for-16 performance at the charity stripe.
"Both guys stepped up," said Buckeye coach Thad Matta of Wisconsin's backcourt duo of Taylor and Flowers. "Those guys, in our opinion coming in, they kind of quietly make this team go and really do a great job."
As for Landry, he not so quietly provided the big spark to the second half on both ends of the floor. With the score tied at 36, Tucker ran into the hulking frame of Greg Oden in the paint and dished it out to Landry for a 3-pointer as the Badgers pulled ahead for the final time.
From there, Landry tipped in a Tucker putback on the ensuing possession, then ignited the crowd with back-to-back blocks in front of the student section. He finished the night with 10 points, hit 2-of-4 3-pointers, blocked four shots and grabbed four offensive rebounds.
"He's been doing this for us more often, and he's a player," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Landry, who also played big down the stretch of a win at Georgia on Dec. 31. "He takes advantage of opportunities if they're there and wants to contribute even more."
Jamar Butler pulled up for a long 3 to make it 43-41 on the Buckeyes next possession following the two Landry blocks, but Wisconsin rattled off 14 straight points from there – mostly on lay-ups – and led 60-47 going into a timeout with just under eight minutes remaining.
In between, Flowers and Jason Chappell each pocketed one of their three steals, and Wisconsin got baskets from five different players over the course of the run. Flowers in particular put forward a balanced effort with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and the three steals.
"Hustle, desire, tenacity – Michael Flowers," Ryan summarized. "Glad to be playing. Loves the game. Gym rat…"
The Buckeyes did manage to battle Flowers and the rest nearly all the way back in the game's final minute – forcing the Badgers to hit just enough free throws to keep a tight lead. Down 69-59 with 54 seconds on the clock, Ohio State got two Ron Lewis 3-pointers and two Oden dunks – the second of which cut the lead to two with eight seconds remaining.
But while Wisconsin was far from perfect at the line, Taylor hit 5-of-8 in the final 64 seconds, forcing Butler to launch a clean look from beyond the arc as time expired, which went long and gave the Badgers their third victory over a ranked opponent in the last month.
UW dominated the boards in the second half to their own advantage, hauling in 23 to the Buckeyes' 16 after the break. And despite collecting just one rebound on the offensive glass in the first half, Wisconsin grabbed 13 of them following halftime and outscored the Buckeyes 18-5 on second-chance points.
"Well, we were in position to score after we got the rebounds," Ryan said of his team's second-chance points – referring to the fact that the Buckeyes attempted 26 3-pointers and many of their offensive boards subsequently came off long bounces.
Rebounding for UW, Cotton-eye Joe, Sloppy Joe or Captain Intangible: whatever you want to call Joe Krabbenhoft, he made his biggest contribution in scrapping for nine boards. The South Dakotan also added seven points in 25 minutes.
And Jason Chappell, who has kept mostly quiet on the offensive side this season, forced Oden into first-half foul trouble and played solid defense on the preseason All-Big Ten pick. The freshman Oden played the entire second half, but finished with just ten points in 30 minutes.
"The unsung heroes – they make a lot of key plays that go unspoken about," Tucker said. "But we understand as players. We know the job that they do."
Oden did manage to swat UW six times, but the Badgers collected the ball back off many of them and scored – like when Landry followed up a botched dunk attempt to make it 55-49.
And with a little help from his friends, Tucker did ultimately make enough of a mark to get the job done. After being frustrated through most of the first half by the blanket defense of Ron Lewis, Tucker quietly went 5-for-8 from the field in the second half. The All-American candidate did struggle at the free throw line all night, however.
"It was just an overall bad shooting night for me," Tucker said. "It was just one of those things that, we got past it as a team. I won't have another night like this."
Wisconsin showed, however, that even on a night when its star did not control the tempo of the entire game or live up to his own expectations, the team could still succeed as a whole.
"Overall, as a team, we're gelling so much better this year," Tucker said. "And this is definitely a different Wisconsin team."