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Saturday’s loss affects pride more than championship chances

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The Badgers took down the top-ranked, undefeated Buckeyes in Madison, Wis. It’s happened twice since October in two sports. But let’s move on.

Let’s move on from Badger fans allegedly spitting on Ohio State players, chanting homophobic slurs with Buckeyes on the free-throw line and screaming, “F— Ohio!” before the opening tip. The land’s best fans are above that.

Let’s move on from the notion that somehow there’s a connection between Saturday’s loss and the Oct. 16 football game.

Let’s move on because, unlike that football game, this team’s chances at a National Championship are the same now as they were on Friday. A loss in February does not break what could be a dream season in college basketball.

Coach Thad Matta has continually emphasized that this team’s goal was never to go undefeated — it was to win the Big Ten Championship. The team had already moved on from an undefeated season before taking its first loss.

Even with the defeat, OSU leads the conference by two games with six contests left. Four of those are at home, including the regular-season finale, a rematch against Wisconsin on March 6 in Columbus.

At this point, it would take more than one loss to cost this team a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But while Saturday’s defeat is relatively inconsequential in the big picture, it sure doesn’t feel that way, does it?

Until the Buckeyes beat the Badgers, there are things that happened in the loss to Wisconsin that we can’t move on from.

We can’t move on from watching a 15-point lead dissolve almost instantaneously, after a barrage of threes jet-fueled the bedlam at the Kohl Center.   

We can’t move on from that unutterable feeling that churned the pits of our stomachs when we watched a guy named Mike Bruesewitz hit a game-deciding shot, when Wisconsin’s student body rushed the floor or when we couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing Jordan Taylor’s stat line that included 5-for-8 on 3-point shooting.

We can’t move on from the fact that Wisconsin fans have started labeling the Badgers “Buckeye Killers.” The rate of winning that OSU has achieved in football and basketball makes losing to the same school over and over again that much worse.

We wouldn’t be the fan base we are if these things didn’t bother us. It’s part of a good fan’s DNA to squirm when falling to a rival, regardless of whether the loss means anything.

But the beautiful thing about sports is there’s always another opportunity. And the impact of Saturday’s result would shrink if the Buckeyes hammered the Badgers March 6 at home, like they should.

“To be spit on is just nasty,” freshman forward Jared Sullinger tweeted following the game. “On top of that in my Face. Before and after the game. Smh. I just kept walking. More fuel to the fire.”

Although it was tough, Sullinger did the right thing. Wisconsin will get what’s coming. Until then, let’s move on.

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