Unbeaten. 24-0. The number one-ranked Buckeyes traveled to an arena that had been most unkind to them of late; one that Thad Matta had never won in, and one that Bo Ryan had never lost to Ohio State in.
The Kohl Center was the place where the Badgers put an end to Ohio State's 24-0 run. It was where the Badgers knocked off a top-ranked team that looked downright invincible at points. But the Buckeyes had vulnerabilities and the Badgers made them pay for every single one of them.
Wisconsin started by winning the opening tip and taking a 10-4 lead early on, but the Buckeyes stormed back and were able to tie the game over and over again. Eventually, the Buckeyes were able to take the lead at the half, in no small part due to a Ryan Evans turnover giving the Buckeyes the ball with 0:34 to go.
Ohio State kept rolling, taking a 47-32 lead on the Badgers early in the 2nd half before...what? They started preparing for the next game against Purdue? Decided it would be a great idea to come up empty on multiple offensive possessions? Whatever the reason, the Badgers took advantage of it; the Badgers went on a huge run to tie the game less than two minutes after looking dead in the water against the top-ranked team in the nation.
The Badgers and Buckeyes traded a pair of baskets. Then Mike Bruesewitz hit a 3 to tie the game and Keaton Nankivil hit a 2 to give Wisconsin the lead for the first time since the first half, 57-55. Jordan Taylor hit another 3 to give Wisconsin a 60-55 edge, and the Buckeyes were again in deep trouble. While the Buckeyes trailed, they certainly didn't give up; after Wisconsin took a 70-64 lead on another Bruesewitz 3, Jared Sullinger hauled in a missed free throw and made an incredible 3 over the top of Keaton Nankivil to cut the gap to 70-67 with 3 seconds remaining.
But the Badgers shot them down from there; Jon Leuer grabbed the inbounds pass and was fouled. Leuer hit just one of his free throws, but that would be enough as Ohio State missed their final shot of the game. It was an incredible finish to an incredible game; as the Badgers trailed by 15 at two separate points in the second half yet found a way to pull out a win.
The Badgers got a boost from the incredible Jordan Taylor, who had 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists. Taylor shot 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. Mike Bruesewitz made a huge pair of threes, one to tie and one that would clinch the win, and finished with 12 points. Jon Leuer added 12 points but shot 5 of 14 from the field; his shots would simply not roll at points, but he made the ones that mattered most. Josh Gasser added a trio of threes, each one more impressive than the last, as he finished with 11 points.
For Ohio State, the Buford-Sullinger combination churned out 40 of their 67 points. But aside from those two, no Buckeye scored in double figures. Jon Diebler had 9, and David Lighty and Aaron Craft finished with 8 points apiece, but it wasn't enough to keep the Buckeyes from being upset. Ohio State shot just two threes in the first half, both by William Buford, but they would shoot seven more in the second half and make just two. Thad Matta's team WAS dominating inside, but they went away from what was successful by shooting threes (and missing many of them). That allowed the Badgers to cut into their lead and eventually snatch it away for good.
Wisconsin still hasn't lost at home, and it's unlikely that they'll do so the rest of the way. Winners of four straight games, the Badgers take on Purdue in West Lafayette, where they were a possession away from sweeping the Boilermakers last season. Ohio State faces Michigan State at home, and then Purdue in Mackey Arena, where the Boilermakers are undefeated. The Buckeyes will take on Wisconsin in their regular-season finale.
NEXT THREE GAMES:
Wisconsin: @ #14 Purdue (2/16/11), vs. Penn State (2/20/11), @ Michigan (2/23/11)
Ohio State: vs. Michigan State (2/15/11) @ #14 Purdue (2/20/11), vs. Illinois (2/22/11), vs. Indiana (2/27/11)