Wisconsin-Ohio State and Minnesota-Northwestern dotted the Big Ten schedule last night. Wisconsin was pretty hot, on a four game winning streak, heading into the contest with Ohio State. Both teams sat in similar positions in the conference standings, so it was a bit of a measuring stick game.
Minnesota, still looking for its first Big Ten win, traveled to Northwestern. In fact, both teams really needed a win; Northwestern entered the game losing their last five games.
Game of the Night: Wisconsin Badgers 79, Ohio State Buckeyes 68
Wisconsin jumped to an 11-0 lead to start the game, and strangely enough, they were able to hold that advantage until the final buzzer. It wasn't all smooth sailing though. Ohio State took a one point lead with seven minutes in the first half; sure it would be their first and only lead of the game, but the Buckeyes hung around all night.
Nigel Hayes finished with 21 points, but struggled greatly in the first half. He had three points heading to halftime; despite his issues, Wisconsin led 38-32.
JaQuan Lyle, who has been in the doghouse a bit this season and lost his starting role, played inspired in the first half. He scored 18 points, and really lifted the Buckeyes out of what could've been an insurmountable deficit. Lyle finished the game with 27 points, and contributed a large percentage of Ohio State's 46 bench points. (Kam Williams also scored 10 off the bench.)
Outside of Lyle and Williams, no other Buckeye scored in double figures. Jae'Sean Tate only had nine points, but drew a challenging defensive assignment, guarding Nigel Hayes.
The Badgers shot the ball tremendously well from three (13-for-27), which hasn't been a particular strength for this team. Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Alex Illikainen and Jordan Hill hit multiple threes, which balanced the shooting. Hill hit perhaps the biggest shot of the night on a kick out from Hayes; it suppressed a late Ohio State run.
Wisconsin has now won five straight conference games. The Badgers are 15-9 overall, 6-4 in the Big Ten. They have a particularly difficult stretch coming up. After Nebraska, Wisconsin has dates with Michigan State and Maryland; both are on the road. For a team that appears to be improving, Maryland and Michigan State on the road will be two challenging test.
For Ohio State, this is another learning experience for a young team. The Buckeyes have played and won tough road games, and they competed very well last night. Ohio State is now 14-10 overall, 6-5 in the Big Ten.
Each team was sliding a bit heading into last night's contest. The Gophers, of course, hadn't won a Big Ten game; Northwestern had lost five straight.
The Wildcats started the game hot from the perimeter; lately, Northwestern has struggled mightily shooting the ball, not at all against Minnesota though. (The Wildcats shot over 40 percent from three.) Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh scored 23 and 20 points, and finished 7-for-14 from deep combined.
Minnesota's offense and defense were anemic. Two Gophers, Jordan Murphy and Kevin Dorsey, scored in double figures (14 and 11), but the team shot 33 percent, 22 percent from the three point line. Minnesota played hard, but they weren't particularly stout in their perimeter defense and never really worked back into the game.
Northwestern snaps a five game losing streak, and moves to 16-8 overall, 4-7 in the Big Ten. Minnesota is still searching for its first Big Ten win, and their also in the midst of their worst losing streak in almost 30 years (currently at 12 games). The Gophers are 6-17, 0-11 in conference.