A trip to Madison, Wisconsin, seemed to be a perilous one early for the Ohio State men’s basketball team against Wisconsin.
Though the game ended up being a relatively competitive affair on the scoreboard, the Badgers led for all but 1:34, as they won the Thursday-night affair 79-68.
Wisconsin (14-9, 6-4) jumped out to an 11-0 lead, forcing OSU coach Thad Matta to use an early timeout to attempt to stop the bleeding. That measure did provide a bandage for the Buckeyes (14-10, 6-5), who scored 22 of the next 32 points to claw all the way back and take a 22-21 lead with seven minutes left in the half.
Twelve of those points were registered by freshman guard JaQuan Lyle, who made five of his first seven shots. The Evansville, Indiana, native had previously adjusted terribly to his new role coming off the bench, failing to hit a field goal in his last two games.
Just as soon as OSU came back to grab the lead, Wisconsin junior guard Bronson Koenig snatched it right back with a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. That Badgers lead would hold throughout the remainder of the half, as the teams went into the locker rooms with a 38-32 score.
Lyle finished his first half with 18 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting, providing huge relief after a largely ineffective start by fellow freshman point guard A.J. Harris, who had no points or assists. Redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson picked up the bulk of the remaining scoring for OSU, adding nine points to go with five rebounds.
Junior forward Vitto Brown led the Badgers in first-half scoring with nine points, while Koenig contributed eight.
Of the nine Buckeyes to see the floor in the opening 20 minutes, only four — Lyle, Thompson, sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate and junior forward Marc Loving — scored points. OSU finished the half shooting 41 percent, while Wisconsin countered at 44 percent. The Badgers did much of their damage from the outside, making seven of 18 3-point attempts.
The duo of Lyle and Thompson — who were each removed from the starting lineup in favor of Harris and freshman center Daniel Giddens before the Jan. 25 game against Penn State — remained on the floor to begin the second half.
Lyle made that decision by Matta look very savvy early, connecting on a 3-pointer on the opening possession. But another two long-range shots by the Badgers pushed the margin back to seven points, giving the home crowd at the Kohl Center in Madison room to breathe.
And breathe they did. OSU showed flashes a few times, at one point cutting the deficit to just two points, but a lack of scoring options as the defense honed in on Lyle made it difficult for Matta’s squad to put up the points needed to contend for the victory on the road.
OSU redshirt sophomore guard Kam Williams was a bright spot in the second half, scoring all 10 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Wisconsin junior forward Nigel Hayes — who finished as the Badgers’ leading scorer with 21 points — did the same on the other end, notching 18 second-half points.
The Scarlet and Gray received next to nothing from their starting five, with all but 22 of their points coming from the bench. Loving had a particularly rough outing, as he finished with six points but appeared visibly frustrated throughout the night and shot just 2-of-7.
The Buckeyes made just under half of their shots in the second half (48.3 percent) but were unable to overcome the Badgers’ 56.5 percent mark. A key statistic was rebounding, where Wisconsin held a 36-27 edge, including 13-10 on the offensive glass. The most lopsided statistic came in bench points, where OSU led 46-15, led by Lyle, Thompson and Williams’ 46 combined.
OSU’s next contest is set to come on Tuesday against Northwestern at home. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.