After the battle he went through for his teammates, Krabbenhoft, with a simple fist pump, was finally able to exhale.
In what arguably was Wisconsin's most physical conference game of the season, the Badgers, thanks to Krabbenhoft's senior moxie, were able to thrive down the stretch and make the big plays at the most opportune times, all of which registered a 55-50 decision in favor of Wisconsin. "It was a very physical game and that is how we like to play, getting back to that old-school Wisconsin basketball," Krabbenhoft said. "We enjoy that."
From a statistical standpoint, nobody thrived on the environment more than Krabbenhoft. Playing 33 minutes against 24th-ranked Ohio State, Krabbenhoft filled the stat sheet to near capacity, registering nine points, eight rebounds, a career-high six steals, four assists and one lone turnover.
"I love Krabbenhoft's game," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta admitted. "He's got the savvy. He understands everything that is going on and he made some great reads, both offensively and defensively."
Against a team with a plethora of young-NBA quality talent that lead the conference in field goal percentage (47.9 percent), the Badgers' aggressiveness, led by Krabbenhoft, out weighted UW's height disadvantage.
Wisconsin (16-9, 7-6 Big Ten) created its own opportunities by out rebounding Ohio State (17-6, 7-5 Big Ten) 32-22, including an eye-opening 15-3 margin on the offensive glass. The result gave UW an eight-point advantage on second chance points, 11 of which came in the first half and four from the hands of Krabbenhoft.
"It seemed like we were a step slow to everything," Matta said. "They got every long rebound."
Not only did Wisconsin seemingly grab every rebound, but the Badgers' defense got to nearly every loose ball. Wisconsin turned 19 Ohio State turnovers into 18 points, helping negate a 20-for-55 (36.4 percent) shooting night.
"Fortunately, we got them to turn it over because they were shooting it so well," said UW head coach Bo Ryan of the Buckeyes' 21-for-38 (55.3 percent shooting performance. "If we don't get them to turn it over, we have no chance."
"We needed to hit some shots to change what they were doing defensively. And by not doing that they were able to match pretty well on some things that we were doing …You just have to find some things to go to in order to give you a chance."
Thanks to the clutch things Krabbenhoft did down the stretch, Wisconsin, unlike similar situations last month, got over the hump.
Trailing 48-47 with just over two minutes remaining, Krabbenhoft nailed his only three-point attempt from the left elbow, giving Wisconsin a two point lead it would never relinquish.
The positive move was almost negated less than a minute later when Wisconsin was whistled for a shot clock violation after Krabbenhoft grabbed his fourth offensive rebound, but failed to go up for the layup.
Instead, Krabbenhoft dribbled out in hopes of running more time off the clock or drawing a foul, only to bang his head in frustration after giving the Buckeyes possession with 1:02 left and down only two.
"It's just a mental error and it can't happen again," Krabbenhoft said. "It was a mistake on my part and I tried to make it up on the defensive end."
Thankfully, he did.
Guarding Evan Turner, Krabbenhoft forced turnover to change directions on his way to the basket, causing the sophomore to loose control of the ball and Krabbenhoft to grab his sixth steal.
Although he finished 9-for-13 for a game-high 23 points, Turner was limited to only one shot in the final six minutes and committed two turnovers, both steals by Krabbenhoft.
"I was trying to keep him from getting to rim and making him counter," Krabbenhoft said. "We were just forcing him to tough situations … and we forced him into some things he probably didn't like too much."
From there, the Badgers took control from the line. Starting with Krabbenhoft's two made free throws at 37 seconds, Wisconsin went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe the rest of the way and never allowed the lead to slip below three points.
"He's Joe," senior teammate Marcus Landry simply said when asked about Krabbenhoft's night. "He's always the type of guy that delivers and you can count on him. Joe is just that type of guy that you want on your team. He's a winner."
Thanks to Krabbenhoft, Wisconsin was.