In a sloppy finish to an otherwise brilliant Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin just couldn't keep pace with Ohio State.
CHICAGO -- Tired legs, poor shooting and sloppy play defined Sunday's Big Ten Championship. The game lacked the sharpness both Ohio State and Wisconsin displayed over a beautiful two days of basketball en route to Sunday's final.
Both teams battled fatigue In a back-and-forth second half. In the end, Ohio State's legs outlasted Wisconsin's. The Buckeyes rode a 9-2 run in the final 6:42 to claim their third Big Ten Tournament championship in the last four seasons.
"Well, I thought we had a chance to run the gauntlet, but we just didn't have quite enough in it," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "I know our guys got them to take some pretty tough shots for the most part. We tried to get them to take contested shots. Didn't get the rebounds off of some of them. We got beat physically inside a little bit, so I think that told a lot on the offensive glass."
This was the farthest Wisconsin has advanced in the tournament since winning the title in 2008. None of the team's active players have played all three days of the tournament, and it was apparent on the court.
"The more minutes you play, obviously the more physically demanding it is," Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz said.
Shooters struggled on both sides. Buckeyes star Deshaun Thomas hit only six of his 19 shots from the field. Wisconsin center Jared Berggren went just 1-for-4. Bruesewitz went just 2-for-8. Only two players -- Ohio State's Sam Thompson (4-for-6) and Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky (2-for-2) hit over 50 percent of their field goal attempts. Both teams shot 38 percent from the field (18-for-47 for Wisconsin, 20-for-52 for Ohio State).
The second half was played within two points for the first 15 minutes and 30 seconds; Ohio State jumped out to the half's first two-possession lead at 45-41 with 4:30 remaining. Ohio State picked up nine rebounds on the 13 missed shots. The Buckeyes picked up two critical offensive rebounds in that stretch. With 3:11 to go in the game, LaQuinton Ross grabbed the rebound off a Deshaun Thomas missed three-pointer and made the putback attempt to give Ohio State a 47-41 lead.
Traevon Jackson called Ross's rebound and bucket the game's turning point.
"That was on me," Jackson said. "He really stepped up. They just got the extra hustle points and second-half points. We played good defense, they just got the hustle points on us."
Wisconsin played great initial defense all game -- Ohio State scored just 37 points on 15-of-41 shooting (36.5 percent) with nine turnovers on 54 first chances, a brutal 0.69 points per play. But Ohio State's 13 second-chance points against just four on five offensive rebounds for Wisconsin proved to be the difference.
"I think we played good defense. In a game like this, only 50 points scored by the winner, it's a defensive game," Wisconsin forward Ryan Evans said. "They had the edge on a couple easy possessions there, a couple loose balls, and that's what got them the win."
Wisconsin took a nine-point lead at 24-15 with 3:22 to go in the first half, their biggest of the game, on the heels of an 18-2 (and 14-0) run. Ohio State battled back with an 8-0 run to close the half as Wisconsin went into its first big scoring drought of the game. The offense was never clicking on all cylinders, though, as the team finished with a poor 0.81 points scored per possession.
Wisconsin's big men struggled to make an impact all day. Berggren played just 23 minutes and scored two points with five rebounds. Evans went 3-for-9 from the field and missed his only free throw attempt, a critical front end of a one-and-one with five minutes remaining. Kaminsky made the biggest impact; he hit both of his field goal attempts for five points and dished out three assists, but his impact was limited in the second half.
The Badgers earned a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament bracket revealed roughly a half-hour following the game. Wisconsin will play 12-seed Ole Miss on Friday in Kansas City, Mo. Evans (11.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG) and Jackson (11.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.6 RPG) earned All-Big Ten Tournament honors, along with Indiana's Cody Zeller and Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas.