So Close, Yet So Far

With the most anticipated game of the regular season coming down to the final minute and the Badgers senior leader at the free throw line, Wisconsin looked poised to regain its footing. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The No. 1 Wisconsin men's basketball team was battered and bruised. They hadn't shot well and their star floor leader Alando Tucker was struggling.

Still, the Badgers somehow found themselves up one on No. 2 Ohio State with 20 seconds to go, as senior Kammron Taylor stepped to the line for a 1-and-1.

He missed.

"We couldn't have asked for another person at the line," freshman guard Jason Bohannon said. "It was really shocking. That really led to Ohio State doing what they did."

On the ensuing possession, Buckeye freshman Mike Conley Jr.'s off-balance runner rattled in with 4.2 seconds left, and Taylor's desperation shot was swatted away.

Ball game. Ohio State 49, Wisconsin 48: game, set, Big Ten Championship.

"It hurts bad," an understandably dejected Taylor said. "We've worked so hard. To have it go through your hands like that, it hurts."

"You just have to be a man and suck it up," UW head coach Bo Ryan said.

Wisconsin (26-4, 12-3 Big Ten) had to watch another opponent's fans storm the floor after a loss for the third time this season, as Ohio State (26-3, 14-1 Big Ten), as the Buckeyes were presented the Big Ten championship trophy after clinching a regular-season title for the second-straight season.

"The first one (2006 Big Ten title) was great," Buckeye forward Ivan Harris said. " To leave Ohio State with two Big Ten championships, it is something special."

"You can't be satisfied after something like that happening," Tucker said.

After Conley's shot, the Badgers had 3.9 seconds to advance the ball the length of the floor for a game-winning shot.

"I was just trying to get to the basket and hopefully draw some contact," Taylor said. "It didn't work out."

While Taylor had the misfortune to miss the free throw and the final shot of the game, the Badgers pointed to shooting 35 percent from the field and an inability to stop Ohio State on Conley's final shot.

"There were so many other things that led to [Taylor's miss] that we needed to get done," Ryan said. "In a game like that, it's all the little things that we didn't do with 10 minutes to go, with 15 minutes to go."

Tucker singled out the defensive effort on Conley Jr.'s game-winner as the key play.

"We were in a position where we were up one and we had a chance to put the icing on it with a defensive stop, that we pride ourselves on," Tucker said. "We didn't make the big stop we needed when we were up one at the end of the game."

The Buckeyes' held Tucker to only 5-of-15 shooting from the field, including a 2-of-9 second-half performance.

"They pressure me when I get the ball and they try to force me into making a pass," Tucker said. "That's why we have to knock down shots when we're given the opportunities. We have to be able to knock those down."

Bohannon responded with 11 points, hitting all three of his 3-pointers and Taylor finished with 10 points.

The Badgers were able to hold freshman superstar Greg Oden to only 11 points, but Harris (12) and Conley Jr. (11) were able to pick up the slack, while Oden was more than able on the defensive end, contributing greatly to UW's poor shooting.

"They played very good defense," senior forward Jason Chappell said. "When you have Oden inside, it just takes away a whole aspect of your game. It just makes going inside that much harder."

Taylor was consoled by Tucker following the game, being told to keep his head up and to help lead the team through the low-point of an outstanding season.

"After a game like tonight, I know he's taking it hard," Tucker said. "I talked to him and told him that everybody is going to be looking at me and him and Chappell, how we respond."

The final minutes of the game were a whirlwind affair. With 2:47 left to play Oden hit a free throw after the final media timeout to complete a 3-point play, and put the Buckeyes up 47-46.

Taylor and Tucker both missed shots on the following UW possession, but Ohio State was unable to capitalize as Bohannon was able to draw a charge on Jamar Butler.

On the Badgers next possession, the team had three missed shots, but three offensive rebounds, ending with Michael Flowers diving on the floor for the loose ball and UW managing to call timeout still having the ball.

Bohannon found Tucker out of the break for a wide open layup to put UW up 48-47.

"We drew it up like that, and it worked," Tucker said.

Chappell blocked a shot by Lewis and after a Bohannon rebound, the stage was set for the disappointing finish.

"That's what's disappointing," Tucker said. "For us not to close out with a 1-point lead, that's tough."

Used with permission from the Badger Herald

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