USA TODAY Sports
Wisconsin rode an 18-0 first half run to a big lead it never relinquished Sunday in Madison, as the Badgers earned another top-15 win over No. 13 Ohio State.
MADISON, Wis. -- With 17:43 to go in the first half, Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft buried a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 6-6. Nearly nine minutes later, Deshaun Thomas hit a mid-ranger jumper of his own to get the Buckeyes to eight points.
But it was too late. The Badgers poured on 18 consecutive points between the two Buckeye baskets to take a 24-6 lead, and the rout was on at the Kohl Center. The Badgers (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten) got another extended run in the second half -- a 17-5 run from 14:44 to go to 6:01 to go -- and buried Ohio State (18-7, 8-5 Big Ten) by a 71-49 final.
It was a perfect response to Thursday's heartbreaking overtime loss against Minnesota in Minneapolis. Coach Bo Ryan said his team didn't change anything between the two polar opposite games:
"One thing they didn't do was change their intensity on defense. Sometimes when you have a bad game, when the ball doesn't go down and you're not making shots, you let it effect other things. The key with our guys is they never took a step backwards defensively or on the glass knowing there will be a time when the shots will be going down."
"We didn't change anything," Coach Ryan declared. "I'd like to say we did, like we found something."
Even without a change, Wisconsin dominated No. 13 Ohio State in every facet. The Badgers held advantages in effective field goal percentage (59 percent to 40 percent), offensive rebound rate (31 percent to 26 percent), defensive rebound rate (74 percent to 69 percent) and assist rate (55 percent of made shots to 29 percent). Wisconsin's 118 points per 100 possessions tied Michigan (at Ann Arbor on Feb. 5) for the second-highest efficiency against Ohio State this season; Ohio State's 83 points per 100 possession was their second lowest output of the season (74 against Illinois on Jan. 5).
The Badgers presented a balanced offensive attack. Ben Brust and Jared Berggren led the way with 15 points each. Brust shot 6-for-11 from the field including 3-for-8 on three-point attempts and added 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double and first of conference play. Berggren shot an ultra-efficient 6-for-8, hit both of his shots from the line and added eight rebounds (three offensive) for one of his best games in Big Ten play this season.
Sam Dekker continued to be a spark off the bench, as he hit three of his five three pointers (5-of-9 from the floor) to score 13 points in 28 minutes. Senior Mike Bruesewitz added seven points and a team-high (along with Traevon Jackson) four assists.
For Ohio State, the struggles started with Craft. Thecelebrated point guard continued to struggle with his shot, as he hit just two of his nine field goal attempts and finished with four points and one assist; the team managed just six assists on 21 made field goals. Craft is now shooting just 39 percent (43 percent eFG) against teams ranked in the KenPom.com top 100.
Craft's matchup, Jackson, was scoreless in the first half but turned it on the second half. He scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in a rebound from one of his worst games of the season in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Ryan Evans had similar struggles against the Gophers, including a 2-for-6 performance at the free throw line. He responded with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting and five rebounds, and his second-half dunk immediately joins the conversation for Dunk of the Year:
"They were better, and I think they can get better again," Coach Ryan said of Jackson and Evans. "Never too high, never too low. But those guys did their jobs, they worked hard. They worked hard against Minnesota. They just didn't make real good decisions and didn't make shots."
Sunday afternoon Jackson and Evans made good decisions and they made their shots, and the result was a blowout of the No. 13 team in the country (and No. 12 in the KenPom rankings).
DeShaun Thomas continued to show he is one of the best players -- if not the best one -- in the Big Ten. He poured in 18 points (8-17 FG, 1-3 3P, 1-1 FT) and grabbed six rebounds and seemed to be the only Ohio State player able to handle Wisconsin's swarming defense. And even Thomas's 18 points didn't come with ease.
"We had the same approach," Coach Ryan said, referencing Thomas's 30-point performance against the Badgers in Columbus on Jan. 29. "He still had a decent day from the floor, because he's that good. But we made him work."
"He got the first one of the game and he got his feet set, " Bruesewitz said. "But from that point on I tried to make sure everything he got to was hard. Ryan [Evans] did a great job too. The biggest thing was we couldn't let him get to the spots that he wanted to and if he was going to score, it had to be an effort."
With the blowout, even the walk-ons earned a couple of minutes on the floor. Dan Fahey -- of the famous sideline celebration faces, including after Evans's dunk earlier in the game -- took advantage, scoring just his sixth and seventh points of the season with a driving layup with 50 seconds to go.
At 9-4, the Badgers remain two games behind Indiana and Michigan State for the Big Ten title race. Wisconsin sits tied with Michigan for third place and a game in front of fifth-place Ohio State in the conference race.