Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Senior Day turned somber at the Schottenstein Center for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.
OSU squared off against Wisconsin in the last home game of the season Sunday, but poor free-throw shooting and turnovers cost the Buckeyes late as they fell to the Badgers, 63-60.
OSU coach Thad Matta said his team wasn’t able to get in a rhythm.
“I think in today’s game our ability to sustain what needed to be sustained be it offensive execution or defensive stops and we weren’t able to get those things done,” Matta said.
Guard William Buford, OSU’s only senior, scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but his final home game ended on a sour note.
“We just weren’t playing together. We just didn’t look like we had it today,” Buford said. “It’s real concerning leading heading into March. We should be together by now.”
OSU shot 10-18 from the free throw line and committed 12 turnovers in the game.
Wisconsin turned OSU’s miscues into 11 points on its offensive end.
“We can’t push it to the point where we’re playing out of control and I think we did that a little bit,” sophomore guard Aaron Craft said.
Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas provided the early offense for the Buckeyes. He hit six of his first eight shots from the floor and had 13 points in the game’s first 13 minutes. Thomas finished with a game-high 23 points, while also adding seven rebounds.
Buford added 10 first-half points and the Buckeyes led for the majority of the period, but a 3-pointer from Wisconsin junior forward Jared Berggren with less than a minute remaining to tie the contest at 29 as the teams headed into the locker room.
With the game tied at 33 and 15:58 remaining, Thomas converted a four-point play after connecting on a 3-pointer in the corner and absorbing the foul. He hit the free throw and OSU led, 37-33.
But after Thomas put in an offensive rebound on the next possession to extend the Buckeye lead to six, Wisconsin responded with a 7-0 run and took a 40-39 lead.
Buford had a response of his own.
OSU’s senior caught a pass in transition, sliced through two Badger defenders and finished at the rim while being fouled. After making the free throw, Buford was fouled on the other end while bringing down a defensive rebound. The Buckeyes were in the bonus and Buford sank both shots from the line to increase the Buckeye lead to six.
Wisconsin came right back led by senior Jordan Taylor. The Badger point guard continued to hit tough shots deep in the shot clock and prevented OSU from pulling away.
Taylor hit a fall-away 3-pointer, a long two-pointer and two free throws to help Wisconsin take a 54-53 lead with less than three minutes remaining. He finished with 19 points.
Trailing by one with less than a minute remaining, the Buckeyes went to sophomore forward Jared Sullinger. After getting the ball poked away, the Buckeyes’ big man regained possession and banked in a right-handed hook shot.
But a 3-pointer from Berggren gave the Bager’s a two-point advantage and erased the last lead of the night for the Buckeyes.
“Wasn’t that huge?” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “Give the kid a lot of credit. He’s done that before.”
After Thomas missed a hurried shot with less than 30 seconds to play, Berggren nailed two free throws and Wisconsin had a two-possession lead with 14 seconds left in the game.
A series of missed shots from the Buckeyes ate up too much time and the Badgers left Columbus with a win.
The Buckeyes have now lost three of their last five games and two of their last three home games.
Craft said the recent struggles can be blamed on the team’s immaturity.
“We have two games left in the season and it feels like we started a week ago,” Craft said. “We can’t keep our heads down. We need to come back and try to refocus.”
The loss drops OSU’s record to 23-6 on the year and 11-5 in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes next travel to Northwestern to face the Wildcats on Wednesday. Opening tip is set for 8:30 p.m.