The final day of the decade brought more of the same from the Wisconsin men's basketball team - another win over a ranked opponent, another win at the Kohl Center and another victory to open Big Ten play. Wisconsin won its third straight contest over a ranked team, its seventh straight Big Ten conference opener and its 14th consecutive game in Madison. The result? A 65-43 triumph over #15 Ohio State.
The Badgers also continued their trend of stout defensive performances against the Buckeyes, holding them below 53 points for the fourth meeting in a row. Wisconsin's feat was particularly impressive Thursday, since Ohio State came in leading the conference in scoring at 81.6 points per game.
The Buckeyes clearly missed star guard/forward Evan Turner, who is out with a back injury, in this one. Ohio State struggled to replace Turner's size, scoring and leadership in front of a hostile Kohl Center crowd. The Buckeyes were forced to go with a smaller lineup that included four guards. Their tallest starter was Dallas Lauderdale at 6-8, and he had an abysmal game, scoring one point and picking up three fouls.
It didn't help matters that the rest of the Buckeyes couldn't seem to find the basket. Ohio State shot just 33 percent from the field, including 27 percent in the second half, when the Badgers built a lead of 20-plus points. The Buckeyes went just 1-of-8 from three-point range in the final 20 minutes. William Buford led the team with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Badgers took advantage of their opponents' poor shooting by hauling in 34 rebounds. They were as hot as the Buckeyes were cold, shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half and 48 percent on three-point attempts for the game. Wisconsin's hot shooting helped build a 28-12 lead. Ohio State pulled within seven with 32 seconds left in the half, but trailed by nine at intermission and fell apart in the second period.
Jon Leuer, the Badgers' leading scorer on the season, got into foul trouble early and was called for two infractions within his first four minutes on the floor. He sat most of the first half, while his teammates built the sizable lead, then contributed 11 points of his own in the second. Leuer's time on the bench meant extended playing time for Jordan Taylor and Ryan Evans. Taylor scored 12 points, including two huge second-half threes. Wisconsin's bench outscored Ohio State's thin relief corps 21-2.
So ends a prosperous decade for Wisconsin basketball, one that began with a Final Four run in 2000. The Badgers made the NCAA tournament every year, made another appearance in the Elite 8, won three Big Ten regular-season titles and two Big Ten Tournament championships, achieved their first-ever #1 ranking, and are off to an 11-2 start this season with a win over Duke. After holding a top-15 team to 43 points to kick off conference play Thursday, the next decade figures to be pretty successful as well.