In an Ohio homecoming for four Wisconsin Badgers, Bronson Koenig was the only one who showed up to play an Ohio State Buckeyes team that dominated the Badgers on both ends Thursday night at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes’ offense was an unstoppable force all night, shooting 51 percent from the floor and 63 percent from three-point range in an 83-73 win over the Badgers. Slashing guards once again crippled Wisconsin’s seventh-ranked defense by getting to the rim and finding open areas to gash UW for a smooth inside-out game. Their shots were falling and their first-half lead held up throughout after offensive rebounding and a relentless Jae’Sean Tate carried them for the first 20 minutes.
Koenig’s career-high-tying 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including five threes) was Wisconsin’s main source of offense. D’Mitrik Trice was the only other Badger to score in double-figures—he hit three threes in garbage time. Koenig’s three-point barrage moved him ahead of Ben Brust on Wisconsin’s all-time three-point shooting list, a very impressive accolade for the senior out of La Crosse.
Ethan Happ’s first half was cut short by foul trouble, and he was rendered ineffective against Ohio State’s aggressive double-teams, only scoring one prototypical baseline-spinning reverse lay up all night. He filled up the stat sheet in other areas in the second half, but the game was mostly out of reach. Nigel Hayes ended with seven points, four rebounds and four assists, but once again couldn’t show the ability to take over a game when Wisconsin needed him to.
On a night when the Badgers shot 43 percent from three (13-of-30) and 44 percent from the field (25-of-57) their defense really let them down and they didn’t score early on before the game got out of hand. Coming off a great win over a top-tier team on Sunday, Wisconsin turned in a poor performance against a bottom-feeding Big Ten team. Ohio State brought its A-game and the Badgers weren’t able to match their intensity.
Wisconsin hit two early three-pointers, but Ohio State went on a 9-0 run to snag an early lead as the Badgers committed four turnovers in the first eight minutes. The Buckeyes’ defense continued the defensive trend of bringing double-teams on both Happ and Hayes whenever they got the ball in the post, continuing to cause problems and disrupt the Badgers’ offense.
Vitto Brown hit his second three-pointer to end Ohio State’s second 9-0 run of the half, but the Buckeyes stayed hot from outside, knocking down their fifth three-pointer from five different players just 12 minutes into the game. The rebounding battle tilted greatly toward Ohio State, who racked up four early offensive rebounds compared to Wisconsin’s surprising zero.
Tate remained a force to be reckoned with on the boards and from everywhere on the offensive end by tallying a double-double in the first 16 minutes, singlehandedly out-rebounding the Badgers in the process. The floundering Wisconsin offense turned to Hayes. He got to the free-throw line a couple times, but the rest of the offense seemed out of sync with Happ on the bench with two fouls. The hot-shooting, relentless Ohio State offense propelled itself to a double-digit lead shooting over 50 percent from the field.
An embarrassing first half of lackluster offense—35 percent shooting and swiss-cheese defense allowing 50 percent shooting from the field and from three—sent the Badgers to the locker room down 44-31. Koenig’s 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three were the team’s saving grace, but Wisconsin only put in two two-point shots in the half. A continued inability to get to the rim or manipulate a defense hindered an offense that looked sluggish and uninspired thanks to a measly two points in the paint.
Without Happ, the offense was lost, and his defensive presence inside was sorely missed. Defensively, Wisconsin had no answers for Ohio State’s downhill attack scoring inside, outside and at the free-throw line.
After a couple possessions where the Badgers looked out of sorts and out of sync, they started to click. The inside-outside game they lacked in the first half emerged, resulting in Happ’s first bucket and more three-pointers. However, Ohio State answered Wisconsin buckets affirmatively to maintain its double-digit lead even though the Badgers’ defense tightened up and forced difficult attempts.
Maintaining his masterful play, Koenig continued to create offense off the dribble and from behind the arc as Wisconsin’s only offensive pillar. Meanwhile, the porous Badgers defense relinquished the inside of the defense to the Buckeyes, who could get to the lane and bang off Wisconsin’s players at will for step-backs and jumpers.
Ohio State’s offense just couldn’t be stopped, hitting trailer threes and threes in transition, and Wisconsin ran out of gas as the game devolved into a sloppier affair for a stretch as the referees started blowing their whistles and putting players on both teams in foul trouble.
The slow burn of the second half was extended with both teams entering the double-bonus for a constant free-throw barrage where Ohio State outshot Wisconsin as well. That simply salted the loss into the Badgers’ wounds while the Buckeyes’ lead hovered around the 20-point mark down the stretch. Garbage-time three-pointers from Trice cut the final score to 83-73 when the final whistle blew.
Odds and Ends:
- Early in the first half, Hayes was working the post and attacking the rim to draw fouls, a great sight to see especially with Happ still struggling with the double-teams. The rest of the team needs to notice when things are starting to go south by having the guards cut and slash to the rim for easier buckets or to reshape and exploit the defense. Too often this team gets lulled into its own offense and settles for a semi-open three-pointer.
- After a fairly clean first half, the referees must have gotten bored because there were 44 fouls called overall, resulting in 42 free-throws. Wisconsin has been involved in a few slugfests like this in a row, and they just get ugly and frustrating to watch down the stretch. The Badgers can’t give up big leads early on and get into foul trouble. What might be overlooked from this game is the foul problems in the first half that left Happ, Zak Showalter and Brown on the sideline, forcing Greg Gard to play a lot of backups and hurting any chance the Badgers had of coming back. The bench continues to be a problem and will for the rest of the season.
- The defense looked disjointed at times, including switching a lot on the outside. On many occasions late in the game, Happ was left guarding much smaller guards on the perimeter. He can hold his own, but it’s not ideal. Hitting shots from beyond the arc with hands in their faces, there’s no doubt Ohio State’s offense was humming, but Wisconsin showed little resistance when it came to defending drives. The Badgers offered no assistance for their teammates when they were guarding the likes of C.J. Jackson, JaQuan Lyle or Marc Loving.
- If you’re wondering why there aren’t any GIFs, there honestly wouldn’t be many clips of this game worth watching.