Courtesy of Megan McCormick / The Badger Herald
With Wisconsin handing the Ohio State men’s basketball team its first loss of the 2010–11 season, the Badgers showed the rest of the nation that the Buckeyes are, in fact, beatable.
The Badgers knew the only way they could defeat the Buckeyes was to be resilient, and limit OSU’s 3-point and free-throw attempts — and they accomplished all three.
Wisconsin never backed down while facing the nation’s No. 1 team.
After entering halftime with a two-point lead, the Buckeyes managed to extend their advantage to as many as 15 points in the second half. The Badgers didn’t back down, however, answering the Buckeyes with a 15-0 run to tie the game, and a 10-0 run down the stretch.
“We started missing shots and they started making shots,” OSU coach Thad Matta said after the game. “You got to give Wisconsin a ton of credit. They got rolling there and they were banging shots from deep, and they were going in.”
The Badgers’ 15-0 run was sparked by the resilience of point guard Jordan Taylor, who unlike previous Big Ten point guards such as Illinois’ Demetri McCamey and Penn State’s Talor Battle, found success against the defense of OSU freshman point guard Aaron Craft. Taylor scored 27 points in the game, 21 of which came in the second half.
At one point, Matta switched Craft — who has earned a reputation of being one of the top defensive stoppers in the conference — off of Taylor in favor of OSU fifth-year senior forward David Lighty.
“He got rolling,” Matta said of Taylor’s performance. “He hit some challenged, tough shots.”
Wisconsin benefited from accurate 3-point shooting, making 12 of its 24 shots from beyond the arc.
“A lot of them were contested. A lot of them were off movement, off ball screens, you know, pull up threes and things like that,” Lighty said. “All you can do is hope they miss and run at them.”
The Badgers also limited the number of 3-point shots taken by the Buckeyes, with OSU connecting on three of its nine 3-point shot attempts the entire game. One successful attempt was a desperation heave by OSU freshman forward Jared Sullinger, making the score 70-67 with four seconds left. The Buckeyes took 20 3-point attempts in their Feb. 6 win against Minnesota, 15 in their Feb. 3 win against Michigan and 19 in their Jan. 25 win against Purdue.
It wasn’t only beyond the arc that the Badgers limited the Buckeyes. Sullinger, the Buckeyes’ leading scorer on the season with 451 total points and an average of 18 points per game, took 12 shots and just four free-throw attempts the entire game — the fewest free throws he’s attempted since OSU’s Jan. 19 win against Iowa, in which he attempted three.
Not all is lost for the Buckeyes, though, who despite Taylor’s and Wisconsin’s performance from beyond the arc, found themselves in the position to potentially eke out a close victory at the end of the game.
“They had to play perfect for that stretch there to get us, and they did,” Matta said. “They deserve the credit for that.”