Buckeyes Go Cold, Fall On the Road to Wisconsin
The 16th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes went on the road and fell to the 13th ranked Wisconsin Badgers 78-68 in Madison to split the regular season series and dropped to 10-4 and 4-2 in the Big Ten. The Badgers improve to 14-2 and 5-1 in conference play. Wisconsin opened the game on a 20-11 run 9 minutes into the game and never trailed, hitting on an uncharacteristic 43.5% from long range for a team that ranked 13th in the Big Ten in 3 point shooting, while the Buckeyes, who are one of the conference’s best from beyond the arc, hit just 3 of 19 from deep. E.J. Liddell led Ohio State with 18 points and 6 rebounds before fouling out, while Jamari Wheeler added 11. Zed Key chipped in with 10 points and 8 rebounds and Malaki Branham and Kyle Young also added 10 each. Brad Davison led Wisconsin with 25, while Tyler Wahl added 20 and Johnny Davis scored 14 despite shooting just 4 of 18 on the night.
The Badgers got on the board first, hitting a triple from the top, but after an offensive rebound, Jamari Wheeler put the ball on the floor and scored at the rim while getting fouled. Wheeler knocked down the free throw for the old fashioned three point play. Four straight Badger points were followed by Justin Ahrens lobbing to E.J. Liddell on the right block and he scored off the glass to cut into the Wisconsin lead. Conference player of the year candidate Johnny Davis got on the board for the first time in the game, drilling a triple from the top after the Buckeyes were unable to take advantage of back to back Badger turnovers and at the first media timeout, Wisconsin was on top 10-5. Out of the timeout, Kyle Young put the ball on the floor and got to the rim left of the lane for a score, but three Buckeye turnovers fueled an 8-0 Badger run and Wisconsin grabbed control early. Jimmy Sotos ended the run when he got to the rim and scored off the glass, and after a Badger score, Cedric Russell knocked down a 15 foot jumper and with 10:57 to play at the under 12 media timeout, Wisconsin led Ohio State 20-11. The lead went to 10 when the Badgers split a pair of free throws, but an alley-oop pass from Wheeler to Zed Key cut into the lead a bit. Wisconsin went back up 10 with a bucket on their end, but was cut back to 8 when Malaki Branham drilled a 15 foot jumper from the left wing. The Badgers answered with a long triple from the top and at the under 8 media timeout, Wisconsin was in control, leading Ohio State 26-15. A pair of Davis free throws bumped the lead to 13, but a pair of Liddell free throws trimmed the lead back to 11. After a Badger turnover, Wheeler got to the rim for a lay in and the deficit was 9. Two Badger free throws in four attempts increased the lead back to 11 but a Wheeler floater in the lane dropped to get Ohio State back to within 9. Five straight Badger points ballooned the lead to 15 before a Branham jumper mid-paint banked in and at the final media timeout of the half, Wisconsin was firmly in control, leading 35-23. Justin Ahrens scored on a reverse lay-in to cut the lead to 10. Three offensive rebounds led to a Badger bucket and Chris Holtmann called timeout, clearly unhappy with the effort on the defensive glass. Kyle Young rebounded his own miss and scored to trim the lead back to 10, but another Wisconsin three increased the lead to 13 and at the half, Wisconsin led Ohio State 40-27. It was a tale of shooting in the first half. Wisconsin, 13th in the Big Ten from long range, hit 7 of 13 from beyond the arc and Ohio State, who sits 3rd in the Big Ten from deep, went 0-8 and shot just 43% overall. Seven Ohio State turnovers led to 10 Badger points and those two factors led to the comfortable Wisconsin half time lead. Jamari Wheeler led Ohio State with 7 first half points and Tyler Wahl led Wisconsin with 12. The two stars coming in were both quiet in the first 20 minutes. E.J. Liddell had just 4, while Johnny Davis scored just 6.
Wisconsin went up 16 90 seconds into the half, when a triple dropped from the left wing. Liddell scored with a drop step from the left block and an offensive rebound and score by Liddell trimmed the lead to 12. A Wheeler lay in cut the lead to 10 after a Badger miss and after a Wisconsin turnover, Young scored at the rim to trim the lead to 8. Wisconsin scored mid lane to end an Ohio State 8-0 run and at the under 16 minute media timeout, Wisconsin led Ohio State 45-35. An old fashioned three point play by the Badgers put Wisconsin back up 13 in a flash. The Badger run went to 9-0 and the lead went to 15 when Davis scored on back to back possessions and put the Badgers up 17. The Buckeyes cut the lead to 14 when Liddell hit a triple, the Buckeyes first of the night, and cut it to 12 when Key got loose in the halfcourt and dunked. A Badger dunk ended the 5-0 mini run, but a Key jump hook kept the deficit at 12 and with 11:07 left in the game, Wisconsin maintained a 54-42 lead. Two Badger free throws put Wisconsin up 14, but another Liddell triple off a pick and pop got Ohio State to within 11. Branham got to the rim off the bounce to get Ohio State a little closer and after a Badger turnover, Liddell scored mid-paint to cut the lead to 7 and Wisconsin called timeout with Ohio State on a 7-0 run. With a chance to cut into the lead even further, Branham missed a front end of a one and one and the score was 56-49 at the under 8 media timeout. Wisconsin ended the run out of the timeout with a triple, but Ohio State answered as Liddell hit two of three free throws after being fouled attempting a three and the deficit was back to 8. Wisconsin scored to go back up 10, but Wheeler scored off the glass to answer. Branham fed Key for a dunk to get Ohio State to within 6, but the Badgers scored the next 5 to go back up 11 with just 5 minutes to go. A Buckeye turnover led to another old fashioned three point play and Wisconsin was on a 8-0 run and firmly in control. Young scored with a jump hook in the lane and Ohio State took a timeout, trailing 67-59 and just 3:56 left in the game. Another Badger triple and on the offensive end, Liddell picked up his fifth and final foul and the game was essentially over. The Buckeyes were not done however. Back to back Branham buckets cut the lead to 13 and Ahrens hit a triple from the left wing to cut the lead to 10 and Ohio State took a timeout but with just over 2 minutes to play, the task was monumental. A short jumper from Young cut the lead to 8 and Key scored at the rim to trim the lead to just six and called timeout with an 11-0 run and 55 seconds to go. Ahrens picked up his fifth and final foul on a ticky tack call that upset Coach Holtmann and the Badgers hit both to go back up 8 to seal it. The Badgers got the lead back up to 10 with 20 seconds remaining and that was it.
There are clearly some lingering impacts from the COVID pause on the Buckeye team. Combine that with what is seemingly an unending injury list and the Buckeyes aren’t nearly what they should be later in the season. They won’t make excuses but injuries and the pause is real and there is absolutely no denying it. Playing another game without Justice Sueing, Seth Towns and tonight without Meechie Johnson, the Buckeyes depth has certainly been tested. Give the Buckeyes credit for not quitting and making a charge late, but it was too little too late. Ohio State will have to be better in all facets than they have since they returned from the layoff and nobody can argue that. Until they find the cohesiveness on both ends they had prior to the layoff, they will have more nights like this. They will have a quick turnaround so they will have to have short memories and hope to get things turned in the right direction on Sunday.
The Buckeyes head back home to play again on Sunday, hosting Penn State at Noon and airing on BTN.