Five Ohio State men’s basketball seniors will leave Columbus with at least 107 wins to their class’s name, but that won’t include a victory on senior day.
Guard Shannon Scott, forwards Sam Thompson and Anthony Lee, and centers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald each played their final games at the Schottenstein Center on Sunday, but No. 23 OSU fell, 72-48, to No. 6 Wisconsin.
OSU coach Thad Matta said he wants the seniors to put the loss behind them in order to end their collegiate careers on a high note because “crazy things happen” in March.
“The biggest things I want from those guys are to value the time they have remaining and to know that this team has played some great basketball,” Matta said. “We have no other choice than to play our best basketball going forward.”
Scott said OSU knew the Badgers were “fighting for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament,” but noted the loss was discouraging either way.
“We just wanted to come in tonight and play our best basketball tonight and we didn’t, so that’s what happened,” Scott said after the game.
No matter the result of Sunday’s game, the Buckeyes (22-9, 11-7) had already locked up the sixth-seed for the Big Ten Tournament, while Wisconsin (28-3, 16-2) had earned the top seed and the conference’s regular-season title.
Scott said the Buckeyes will have to forget the loss as soon as possible with the conference tournament around the corner.
“We have no choice but to shake it off,” he said. “If we don’t shake it off right now, we’re gonna lose our very next game.”
The Badgers took a 37-23 halftime lead after OSU shot just 28.6 percent from the field in the first half. The Buckeyes pulled within seven in the second half, but a 16-0 run by Wisconsin put the game away for good.
Wisconsin senior forward Frank Kaminsky and OSU freshman guard D’Angelo Russell are among 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, given annually to the nation’s top player. The 7-foot Kaminsky got the better of the head-to-head matchup, though, with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Matta chose to have 6-foot-4 freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate guard Kaminsky for most of the game, and noted he was comfortable with Tate even though it wasn’t an opportune matchup for OSU.
“If I had to choose a freshman, I would want it to be Jae’Sean Tate to do that (guard Kaminsky),” Matta said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Russell, who is one of three underclassmen in the running for the award, made just two of his first eight shot attempts and turned the ball over three times in the first half. He finished the game with 17 points on 1-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
The Louisville, Ky., native said the defensive play from Wisconsin redshirt-senior guard Josh Gasser made it difficult for him to find success on offense.
“He did a great job as you can see from my stats and whatnot,” Russell said. “(He’s a) tough defender, great defender, so give a lot of credit to him.”
Russell came out of the locker room on a roll, scoring eight of the Buckeyes’ first 13 points in the second half. The run included five straight points to cut the Badgers’ lead down to 10.
Tate converted a three-point play to cut the deficit to single digits for the first time since 10:30 mark in the first half, but Wisconsin responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore guard Bronson Koenig.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said Koenig’s play in the second half was “huge” for the Badgers.
“That’s Bronson,” Ryan said after the game. “He’s a gamer, there’s no question about that.”
Those jumpers sparked the Badgers’ 16-0 run, putting them ahead, 62-39, with less than eight minutes on the clock.
Scott said the Badgers “never really got rattled,” making it hard for the Buckeyes to sustain their early run in the second half.
“They’re a great team,” he said. “They knew we were excited to come back, but they don’t really panic, don’t really worry or anything.”
The Wisconsin lead ballooned to 25 just over a minute later, putting the game well out of reach for the Buckeyes.
OSU out-rebounded Wisconsin, 18-17 in the first half, but the Badgers flipped the script, finishing with 41 rebounds to the Buckeyes’ 27.
Tate finished the game with 13 points and six rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
Scott was the only OSU senior to score in double digits, finishing with 10 points. Thompson shot 0-for-7 from the field, while Williams totaled four points and McDonald failed to score.
Lee sat out with a groin injury.
Koenig and junior forward Sam Dekker tallied 15 and 10 points for Wisconsin, respectively.
As the No. 6 seed, OSU has a first-round bye for the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes are scheduled to play their first game Thursday night in Chicago.
Russell said he doesn’t “know anything about March,” but added that anything can happen once postseason play begins.