Jared Sullinger and the Buckeyes have a lot of questions after Wisconsin stunned Ohio State in Columbus, 63-60.
Just three days after a horrible effort and eventual loss against the Hawkeyes, the Wisconsin Badgers traveled to Columbus to take on the Ohio St. Buckeyes. The Buckeyes had won in the Kohl Center for the first time against Bo Ryan, and were looking for a sweep. On Senior Day a year ago, the Buckeyes had unleashed an incinerating effort from the three point line, winning 93-65.
But instead of a sweep, they got a rude surprise as Wisconsin, which had started off 5-1 on the road in the Big Ten (before losing to MSU and Iowa), refused to die in Columbus. The murderous three-point barrage that had murdered Wisconsin a year ago would not be repeated, and the Buckeyes finished 4 of 11 from that department. Even more damaging were the 9 free throws that the Buckeyes missed on 19 attempts, which kept them from closing out the Badgers and allowed Wisconsin to stay alive. Neither team looked like they would run away with the game. And in the end, neither team did.
Wisconsin simply outlasted the Buckeyes on the road and ruined Ohio State's Senior Day, along with Thad Matta's 7-0 record on Senior Day. Twice before (2006-07 and 2010-11) the Badgers had fallen to the Buckeyes on Senior Day, both times against top-3 opponents. This time, however, they didn't get the job done from the perimeter, and carried by Jared Berggren, the Badgers knocked off a top-10 opponent on the road.
Berggren in particular held off the flopping fish of Jared Sullinger on defense. Operating in foul trouble, Berggren made a critical 5-0 run that put the Badgers ahead late in the final minutes, especially a clutch 3-pointer that gave Wisconsin a 61-59 lead. Berggren hauled in a huge defensive rebound on the next possession and hit the free throws after getting fouled to give Wisconsin a 63-59 lead. Ohio State G Aaron Craft somehow ended up at the free throw line (for throwing his elbow into Ryan Evans's face on what likely should have been a charge), making one and intentionally missing the other to give the Buckeyes a chance of the tying three with under 0.5 remaining in regulation. Wisconsin hauled in Ohio State's ninth missed free throw and time expired, giving Wisconsin a gigantic road win and ruining Senior Day in Columbus.
Jared Berggren had 18 points on 6 of 13 shooting, which wasn't great, but his 5-0 run in the closing moments will go down as one of the better clutch performances of the Bo Ryan era. Wisconsin needed someone to step up, and Berggren stepped up. Jordan Taylor, after vanishing through most of Wisconsin's loss to Iowa, also stepped up big in the clutch, scoring 9 of Wisconsin's final 18 points and finishing with a team-best 19 points. Taylor also struggled with turnovers (having 3 on the day) but he had 4 assists and shot an efficient 6 of 8 from the floor, making 6 of 7 free throws to boot.
While Ryan Evans somehow made it to double-figures scoring, he struggled horrifically with his shot, shooting 5 of 17 from the floor (0-1 from beyond the arc and 0-1 from the charity stripe). The Junior Forward had his 2nd career double-double despite his struggles (10 points, 10 rebounds), leading the Badgers in rebounds. Rob Wislon had three very well-timed 3 pointers, and finished with 9 points. Josh Gasser added in 7 points of his own to round out Wisconsin's scoring. As a team, Wisconsin shot 41% from the floor and 38% from beyond the arc. Bo Ryan's team made 9 of 11 free throws.
Despite 23 points from DeShaun Thomas and 15 more from William Buford, the Buckeyes lost control of the game and eventually lost the lead for good in the final 30 seconds. While Ohio State outrebounded Wisconsin 35-31, they simply got too sloppy: 4 Buckeyes finished with 2 or more turnovers, with Buford leading the Buckeyes with 3 turnovers. Jared Sullinger was frustrated by Jared Berggren's defense all game long and finished with just 8 points (his lowest total in 4 career games against Wisconsin) on 4 of 10 shooting. Normally a pretty sure thing at the free throw line, Sullinger instead missed all three of his free throw attempts. Aaron Craft also struggled badly from the free throw line, going 1 of 4 in that department, but finished with 13 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
With the Wisconsin win at Ohio State, the Michigan State Spartans have clinched no less than a share of the Big Ten regular season title. If the Spartans beat IU, they will win it outright, regardless of their final game against the Buckeyes. However, if the Spartans lose to IU and the Buckeyes beat Northwestern on the road, the Michigan State-Ohio State game in East Lansing on March 4th will decide the Big Ten Regular Season Championship.
Wisconsin hadn't beaten Ohio State, Illinois, and Purdue on the road in the same season since 1913. (Source)
Wisconsin: vs. Minnesota, vs. Illinois
Ohio State: at Northwestern, at Michigan State