With leading scorer Jon Leuer spending most of the final 16 minutes of the first half on the bench because of foul trouble, the simple goal for the Badgers would seem to be keep it simple and regroup for the second half.
Accepting defeat, however, is and never had been an option for senior Trevon Hughes.
"I was trying to be aggressive from the jump ball to the finish, and I wanted to stay that way throughout the whole game," Hughes said. "When Jon went down, I knew it was going to be a team effort because one of our post guys got two quick (fouls). (Guys) came in and got it done."
Hughes scored 13 of his game-high 16 points during a decisive first-half stretch that helped No.23 Wisconsin distance itself without one of its best players, providing too much offense for No.15 Ohio State to handle in a 65-43 blowout Thursday afternoon in Madison.
The victory gives UW (11-2) its seventh consecutive win in a Big Ten opener, the longest active streak in the league, and gives the Badgers a win in their 11th straight home conference opener.
Drawing the challenging task of guarding Ohio State junior David Lighty, the Big Ten's Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 30 points his last time out against Cleveland State, Leuer picked up two quick fouls, forcing him to the bench with 15 minutes, 51 seconds left in the half.
With the 17-points-per-game scorer relegated to spectator status, Wisconsin's other big-time scoring threat happily took the burden.
Already having five points before Leuer's exited with the game score locked at seven, Hughes quickly asserted himself offensively. He hit a deep three-pointer, one of his three made perimeter shots of the half, in front of the Buckeyes' bench to push the lead to 12-8.
"He took advantage of his opportunities, that's for sure," UW coach Bo Ryan said of Hughes. "You've got to be ready for that. Opportunistic still describes the way we try to play. That fact that he doesn't have to do something to make our possession go, that doesn't hurt."
After sophomore William Buford's made short jumper at 11:55, Hughes scored the next five, including a heads-up steal on Buford after a defensive rebound, turning it into an easy lay up.
That play put some pop into UW, as Hughes, sophomore Rob Wilson and junior Keaton Nankivil each hit a deep three-pointer on the next three possessions to spur the Badgers, without Leuer's contributions, to a 16-2 run.
"That was fun watching those guys go out there and just compete and execute like they did," Leuer said. "I was really enjoying my spot on the bench watching that. I felt like a fan cheering them on."
Ohio State (10-3) didn't help matters by not having a made field goal from Buford's bucket to the 4:08 mark, only managing a pair of P.J. Hill free throws during the stretch that did little to stop the bleeding.
"We never could get into the flow of what we were trying to do offensively," OSU coach Thad Matta said. "We were never able to recover to the level we needed to, and that was huge for them."
Ranking in the conference's top three in defense every season over the last eight years but one, Wisconsin -despite losing two key personnel in the paint from a team that was 10th nationally in points allowed last year - find itself leading the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing an average of only 58.4 points per game.
Already having to cope without the services of junior Evan Turner – the Buckeyes' leader in points, rebounds and assists – for another month because of a back injury, Ohio State, the league's top scoring offense averaging 81.6 points per game, only managed 43 points and a 32.6 shooting percentage, both season lows, and marks the fewest points the Buckeyes have scored in the series since January 2001.
"(There were) no easy lanes to the basket," said Hughes, as OSU's 14 made field goals were the fewest by a UW opponent this season. "We had a guy coming out a lot (to the perimeter), and that's what we were working on all week in practice. We found a way to keep them out of the lane.
"We all buy into the system this year more so than last year," he added. "I just think we have more hungry guys this year. Everybody is out there fighting for minutes and that's one way to get it done."
The Buckeyes, who got 14 points from Buford and 10 from Lighty, managed to chip the lead down to as little as seven late in the first half and began the second half down only nine, but the only problem was a fresh Leuer was ready to make up for lost time.
Leuer scored nine of UW's first 11 second-half points, including a deep three from the top of the key on the first possession, that quickly ballooned the lead to 18. After a soft mid-range jumper fell for his 11th and final point at 12:06, the UW lead was 20, Matta needed a timeout and the Buckeyes were planted.
"We were a second late, we were reacting to everything they were doing," Matta said. "I felt like they had their way with us."
Although it's a grueling 18-game conference schedule, the first one is a big one for Wisconsin, who has four of its next five games on the road and a home match-up with fourth-ranked and undefeated Purdue next Saturday. With their third win over a ranked foe this season and fifth in a row, the Badgers head on the road with a head of steam.
"We knew this was a big game," Leuer said. "Every game is pretty important but with this being the first one, it was big. We have to go on the road a couple times in the Big Ten and that's never easy. We're just going to take it one game at a time and hopefully, keep rolling."