Twilight Zone

The Badger attack kicked off slow and never did solve the Buckeye defense in the Big Ten Tournament Championship

CHICAGO - Jamar Butler finally said what a lot of other people must have been thinking.

The Buckeyes had just scored on their sixth consecutive possession to extend the largest lead of the night to 59-45. Mike Conley Jr. dropped in a lay-up and Ohio State backpedaled into its lethal zone while Butler stuck a few steps forward to offer Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes a piece of advice.

"You better start worrying," Butler suggested.

Fans of the Badger offense might have started worrying long before that basket. The No. 1 Buckeyes didn't allow No. 3 UW an inch of breathing space in the 66-49 OSU Big Ten Tournament victory. Jammed almost everywhere inside the 3-point line, Wisconsin did plenty of shooting from outside it.

The Badgers heaved up 23 shots from beyond the arc, connecting on just four of them. On the flip side, the team that so often made more free throws than they allowed their opponents to attempt found itself at the charity stripe just six times against Ohio State.

Was it an even better defensive output from the Buckeyes in the third act or an occasional aggressive lapse on the part of Wisconsin?

"Both," said Joe Krabbenhoft. "I think it's hard to attack a zone like that, especially with the best defensive player in the last 20 years in college basketball. But we got some of the best attackers Wisconsin's ever seen in Alando Tucker.

"[Tucker] went at it hard. It's just, as a team, no individuals need to be said, as a team we just didn't get it done. We didn't get it done on the offensive end. We didn't attack them. Maybe we settled too much? I don't know. We just didn't get it done."

In the first half almost nothing was clicking for Wisconsin. Or as coach Bo Ryan said, they were a half-click behind. The Badgers turned the ball over a dozen times before the break. There were a pair of shot clock violations and many less than ideal looks at the basket.

If not for Jason Bohannon, who helped UW out with seven first-half points off the bench, and some good looks that did not fall Ohio State's way, the Badgers might have been in worse position than the six-point deficit they took into the locker room.

"It was one of those things," said Alando Tucker. "Early we didn't get a rhythm. We didn't establish a rhythm. A couple turnovers – on the first ten possessions we had like six or seven turnovers, and it's hard to establish a rhythm. That's usually one of the things we're good at, establishing that rhythm."

The rhythm Tucker grooved to in the first half against Illinois on Saturday – of off-balance jumpers and turn-around fades – was stifled both by the defenders who blanketed him around the perimeter and by Greg Oden who seemed to always be in position to deny Tucker on the occasions he was able to break into the paint.

The Badger star then attempted to revisit his Michigan State performance from Friday night in doing his damage from outside, but that shot was not falling either.

"They were tough defensively," Tucker said. "They were throwing different match-ups, different zones, identifying with guys pretty well. It was tough. They played tough."

Kammron Taylor began to heat up in the second half, but his efforts were countered enough on the other end that Ohio State was able to maintain a large enough gap. By the time Butler offered up his words of warning, Taylor looked exhausted enough that his next deep 3-pointer misfired and his release appeared to lack its usual bounce.

After that possession, the Buckeyes' Ron Lewis responded with a 3-pointer of his own. With that large a lead, there was no way the Badgers were going to fight uphill quick enough against that defense.

"Yeah, I think it was a statement," said Conley of his team's defense. "Three games in three days is a tough thing to do, and for our guys to come out and play defense for 40 minutes, even with Greg out of the game, and to stay in defensive stance and do those little things that helps the team win, that goes to show how far we've come as a team."

Again, Krabbenhoft agreed.

"Yeah, they're a great team – offensively and defensively," Krabbenhoft said. "They're the number one team in the country for a reason, and they proved it today."

But despite the success Ohio State had in figuring out the Badgers on Sunday with a swarming defensive presence, Wisconsin still likes its team as well.

"We didn't give our best effort," Krabbenhoft said. "No one's going to say any different. We can play harder. We can play better. We can play more efficient. We can move the ball better. We can shoot better. And there's no excuses for all that stuff, it's just going out and doing it like we have earlier in the year, like we have the last couple of days. There's no excuses, we just didn't get it done and Ohio State did."

The same United Center rims will be waiting for that effort on Friday.


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