No. 19 Ohio State (13-2, 3-2 Big Ten) continued its run through the Big Ten gauntlet last night by handing No. 15 Wisconsin (14-3, 4-1 Big Ten) their first conference loss of the season 77-67 at the Schottenstein Center.
The Buckeyes were led offensively by four players in double figures. Senior center Terence dials led the way with 15 while senior forward Matt Sylvester, sophomore guard Jamar Butler and junior guard Ron Lewis each added 14.
“I think all you guys know every win in the Big Ten is important,” Dials said. “And especially protecting your home court is even more of an importance. I’m just glad our team came out and played extremely hard and we got a win.”
OSU started the game off in a groove, going up 13-5. The run featured great play from the seniors. Sylvester got the Buckeyes rolling, with seven of his 14 points in the first 3:39. Dials added six during the OSU tear.
Wisconsin came storming back. Over the next 3:49, the Badgers scored 12 points while shutting out the Buckeyes to tie the game at 15-15 with 12:30 remaining. Wisconsin took the lead shortly after with a 3-pointer from senior forward Ray Nixon.
From that point on in the first half, it was anyone’s game. Neither team led by more than four points.
With 34 seconds left in the half and the Buckeyes down by two, Sylvester stepped up again and grabbed a huge rebound for OSU. Sylvester passed to sophomore guard Jamar Butler, who took his time and gave the Buckeyes the last shot of the first half. Butler didn’t miss. With less than three seconds on the clock, he made a layup to tie the game at 31 heading into the locker room.
OSU shot 48.3 percent (14-29) while Wisconsin was held to just 33.3 percent (12-36) during the first half. Both teams struggled behind the arc, but Wisconsin was able to convert more treys. The Badgers were 5-of-13 (38.5 percent), OSU was 2-of-9 (22.2 percent).
Second chance points were also a problem for the Buckeyes. Wisconsin outscored OSU 12-5 on second-chance points in the first half.
“I thought the biggest issue at halftime was just being a little bit tougher,” coach Thad Matta said. “They made 3s there in the first half – I think five 3s. And then the put-back points, I thought, were the big key.”
Things changed for the Buckeyes in the second half. OSU shot 60.9 percent from the field in the period. OSU hit four 3-pointers, including a pair from Butler, during a 21-12 run to extend their lead to 52-43 with a little over half the period to go.
Once again, Wisconsin kept it close. The Badgers battled back behind the leadership of junior forward Alando Tucker. Tucker scored 11 of his 21 points in the first 15 minutes of the second half, allowing Wisconsin to trail by only four points, 65-61, with under five minutes to play.
With 3:32 in the game, the Buckeyes increased the lead to 71-61, the largest of the game.
Wisconsin pulled to within seven points with four free throws in the bonus, but Tucker missed a key 1-and-1 down the stretch that could have made it a two-posession game.
The teams matched five points after, but OSU eventually prevailed.
“We went into this game and we knew we had to get this one,” Sylvester said. “I think that’s why this win feels so good.”
OSU will take on Penn State on Saturday in State College, Pa. and Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa on Jan. 28. The Buckeyes’ next home game will be on Jan. 30, against Florida A&M.