The offense looked good for the majority of the afternoon but did struggle at times to remain focused and aggressive on every possession, leading to some hurried shots late in the shot clock. The Badgers shot the ball extremely well from beyond the arc in the first half and were able to ride the torrid perimeter shooting (5-8 from three) to a 34-25 halftime lead. They were able to do all of this without leading scorer Jon Leuer who picked up two early fouls and spent the majority of the first half on the bench.
Meanwhile, the Badgers turned to Jon Leuer in the second half and the big man responded with 11 points after intermission. Additionally, the Badgers were able to go 13-of-16 from the free throw line and will need to continue to make free throws at a similar rate during tight games.
Trevon Hughes once again established himself as someone the Badgers can count on when the team needs him the most. Hughes seems to thrive under pressure and the bigger the stage, the better he plays. To date, Hughes has looked much more focused and driven when the Badgers are in need of a big play out of their senior leader. On the other hand, he does seem to lose his intensity and coast a bit when the intensity of the game falls off. UW will need him to continue to remain focused throughout conference play as he remains the biggest difference maker on Wisconsin.
The Badgers played tremendous defense throughout the game and limited Ohio State to 32.6 percent shooting from the field and forced the Buckeyes into 12 turnovers while limiting Ohio State to only five assists. Wisconsin played tremendous team defense and once again proved that position-oriented defense can effectively limit the dribble penetration of aggressive wings and guards.
Specifically, Jason Bohannon has undoubtedly improved his foot speed and lateral quickness from last season. While he still has difficulty turning the corner on offense, give him credit for becoming an above average on-ball defender and limiting dribble penetration from supposedly more athletic guards. Bohannon was able to stay in Jon Diebler's chest throughout the game holding him to eight points on 2-of-7 shooting and has been able to stay in front of ball handlers much better than a year ago. The Badgers will need Bohannon to continue to contain dribble penetration as Wisconsin will continue to face guard oriented teams in the Big Ten.
Bo Ryan did a tremendous job preparing his team for Ohio State and the team's Big Ten opener. The Badgers looked poised and confident from the start as well as putting together a fantastic defensive game plan in which the Badgers exposed the Buckeyes lack of a post presence.
What has been the biggest transformation from last season is Ryan's ability to ease the pressure off of Trevon Hughes on the offensive end and diversify the Badgers scoring opportunities. Far too often last season the Badgers relied exclusively on Hughes to shoulder the load on the offensive end. Hughes was expected to be the primary ball handler, top playmaker and creator and generally the team's go-to-guy. This clearly left the Badgers without any fluidity on offense and a high number of stagnant offensive possessions.
However, this year, Ryan has emphasized being aggressive early in the shot clock and also has shown different looks on the offensive end. Additionally, Ryan and the Badgers have initiated the offense through the post and worked inside-out as opposed to the outside-in offense the team typically struggled with last season.
Furthermore, with a lack of ball handlers on the wing, Hughes has dribbled to the wing and made the entry pass to the post himself, rather than relying on a pass to the wing and then an entry pass from one of the other guards. Lastly, the emergence of Jordan Taylor has allowed Ryan to distribute the ball handling responsibilities more liberally and consequently move Hughes to the wing where he can attack the paint and not spend all of his energy bringing the ball up the court.
All of these slight tweaks have allowed the Badgers to become much more efficient and potent than they were last year on the offensive end.
Game MVP: Trevon Hughes. Hughes took the team on his back when Jon Leuer went out with foul trouble and took command of the game with three straight shots from downtown. This proved to be the turning point in the game and gave the Badgers some breathing room until their big man returned in the second half.