Buckeyes Roll Badgers, Move to 2-0 in Big Ten Play

21st ranked Ohio State won their second straight conference game to open the season, and fourth straight overall, taking down visiting #22 Wisconsin 73-55 to move to 8-2 overall and dropping the Badgers to 8-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten. E.J. Liddell led Ohio State with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, while Zed Key added 11 points and 9 rebounds and Kyle Young had just 5 points, but a career high 14 rebounds, many coming in heavy traffic. Jamari Wheeler continues to have incredible floor games for this team, contributing 9 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. The Buckeyes fell behind as many as 8 midway through the first half, but roared past the Badgers late in the first half and the second half to come away with a comfortable win. The Buckeyes out rebounded the Badgers 49-28, while hitting 50% of their shot attempts and held Wisconsin to just 33.8% from the field. 

E.J. Liddell opened the scoring, hitting a long three from the right wing.  After a turnover each way, the Badgers scored with a short jumper.  The Buckeyes answered when Zed Key scored with a short jump hook.  After a Wisconsin miss, Liddell ran the floor and caught a pass at the rim and scored to put the Buckeyes up 5. The Badgers came right back and thanks to a pair of triples from Brad Davison, scored the next 8 to take a three point lead at the first media timeout. Liddell got the Buckeyes back on the board with a short fade away jumper after an offensive rebound. The Badgers went back up three when an errant pass got stolen in the front court and led to an uncontested dunk the other way. Three straight Ohio State turnovers led to a pair of Wisconsin scores, the last while getting fouled sending the game into the under 12 media timeout with Wisconsin on top 16-9 and on a 14-2 run. The Badgers had built the lead thanks to an 8-0 advantage on points off turnovers. The free throw dropped after the timeout and Wisconsin had built an eight point lead. Meechie Johnson nailed a shot at the elbow to cut into the lead and get Ohio State back on the board. The Badgers hit a 15 footer to back up by 8, but Liddell got to the rim off the bounce for a score to cut the lead back to 6. Liddell hit a short fade away mid lane while being fouled and completed the old fashioned three point play, bagging the free throw to cut the lead to 3. The Buckeyes got a stop and inside out action found Jamari Wheeler free on the left wing and Key fed him for a triple and at the under 8 media timeout the game was deadlocked at 19 with Ohio State on a 8-0 run. A steal and score by Wheeler put the Buckeyes ahead and the lead increased to 4 when Wheeler lobbed to Key for a dunk. The 12-0 Buckeye run ended when a heavily contested triple near the Ohio State bench fell by Davison, his third of the game. Liddell scored at the rim to put the Buckeyes back up three, but the Badgers cut the lead back to one with a score on a dribble drive. Back to back Cedric Russell jumpers put the Buckeyes up five, but a Wisconsin triple by Johnny Davis, the Big Ten’s third leading scorer, cut the lead back to two. Kyle Young scored off the bounce increasing the Buckeye lead, but a Badger dunk trimmed the lead to two. A Russell three from the left wing put Ohio State up five and the half came to an end with Ohio State leading Wisconsin 34-29. The Buckeyes turned it over a whopping 10 times to help keep Wisconsin close as the Badgers were able to score 9 points off of the turnovers. Ohio State had dominated the glass in the first half to the tune of a 22-10 advantage and outshot the Badgers 57.7% to 38.7%. The Buckeyes were led by E.J. Liddell’s 14 points, while Cedric Russell added 7. Wisconsin was led by Johnny Davis’s 13 and Bruce Davison’s 11.

The Badgers got on the board first, hitting a short jumper to cut the lead to three, but a transition triple by Justin Ahrens from the right wing and a Wheeler scoop and score forced Wisconsin to call timeout with the Buckeyes leading the Badgers 39-31 and 17:08 left in the game. The lead ballooned to 11 when Johnson took a pass from Wheeler and drilled a three from the left wing. The 8-0 Buckeye run ended when Davis hit a short jumper cutting the lead to nine. The lead went back to 11 when Johnson lobbed to Key for a lay in. Wisconsin split a pair of free throws and another short jumper cut the lead to 8, but a Johnson triple and then a steal led to a breakout and a Key dunk which forced Wisconsin to call timeout at the 11:43 mark and Ohio State leading 49-36. A long Liddell jumper and a Liddell quick pass to Key for a dunk had the Buckeyes up 17 and firmly in control. The lead continued to grow when Wheeler found Liddell, who scored while being fouled and he knocked down the free throw and Ohio State was up 20 and on a 12-0 run. The Badgers broke the run with a quick hitter against an Ohio State zone and another point blank bucket cut the lead to 16 and at the under 8 media timeout, Ohio State led 56-40. A pair of Wisconsin free throws got the Badgers a little closer and on a 6-0 run, but a jumper from the right wing by Liddell ended the run and put Ohio State back up 16. The Badgers scored off the bounce, but a pair of Liddell free throws maintained the Buckeye advantage. Two Ahrens free throws increased Ohio State’s lead to 18, but a quick dribble drive bucket by Wisconsin answered. Key split a pair of free throws and with 4 minutes remaining in the game, a media timeout was taken with the Buckeyes leading Wisconsin 63-46. Four straight Badger points was followed by a Liddell rebound and bucket to put Ohio State up 15. After a Badger turnover, the Buckeyes broke the press quickly and Liddell found Young for a score and completed an old-fashioned three point play, dropping the free throw down the ropes and the Buckeyes led by 18.  The lead went to 20 when Liddell nailed a jumper and went to 22 when Wheeler scored at the rim. Liddell split a pair of free throws as Chris Holtmann emptied his bench. The Badgers scored the final five but it was moot as the Buckeyes came away with a big home win. 

Cutting down the turnovers, eliminating the Badgers ability to score in transition along with intense pressure defensively in the half court allowed the Buckeyes to pull away early in the second half.  Turnovers have been an issue for this team with a relatively young backcourt, but when they value the basketball, play with toughness and effort on 50/50 balls like they did in this game especially in the second half, Ohio State is tough to beat.  After turning it over 10 times in the first half, allowing Wisconsin to stay close, Ohio State only turned it over 4 times in the second half, allowing them to separate and cruise to an easy win. They will head to January atop the Big Ten standings and as they look to be a serious contender in the conference and hope to get Justice Sueing and Seth Towns back early in January. For now, however, the challenges in the non conference continue after a week off, a big one with Kentucky looms. If Ohio State continues to play with confidence, they can compete with anyone in the country.

Ohio State takes a week off before traveling to Las Vegas to take on Kentucky in the annual CBS Sports classic event.  That game is scheduled for a 5:30 EST tip, following the North Carolina/UCLA game and airing on CBS.

-Jason Harris 

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