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Wisconsin basketball: Ohio State recap

The Badgers start off 2020 with a huge upset victory over No. 5 Ohio State in Columbus.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a string of three straight wins, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team (9-5 overall, 2-1 B1G) was back in action, for the first time in 2020, Friday night against the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-3 overall, 1-2 B1G).

After capturing their first road win last week against a tough Tennessee squad, Wisconsin had a much taller task against the Buckeyes who entered the game with eight players averaging at least 7.5 points per game.

In a sold out Value City Arena, the Badgers would steal one from the Buckeyes for a signature victory 61-57.

In the opening minutes of the game the Badgers would start off slow. Ohio State’s leading scorer Kaleb Wesson had seven quick points in the first four minutes of the game, while Wisconsin was scoreless in the same time frame.

Greg Gard and company would change their fortunes quickly though, tying the game up at 15 with 7:24 to play in the first half thanks to some improved shooting from both inside and outside.

In a defensive slugfest, the Badgers would ultimately head into the half sporting a four point lead thanks to some solid three-point shooting in the latter stages of the first stanza. Nate Reuvers would lead the team with 10 points, but Wisconsin was able to do most of their damage once Kaleb Wesson went to the bench with his second foul.

In the early part of the second half, Ohio State would jump out on a 13-2 run in the first three minutes to get the crowd back into the game. During the stretch Wisconsin struggled with turnovers and Ohio State was able to take advantage in transition. With Kaleb Wesson back on the court, the Buckeyes looked like a different team, while Wisconsin had a hard time settling back in.

The Badgers though were able to get back on the scoreboard to cut the lead to only four at the midway mark in the second half. Timely shooting by D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King, as well as some tremendous hustle by Tyler Wahl were a big reason for the Badger resurgence.

Wisconsin was able to continue hanging around in the game because of their defense, and only trailed by two points under four minutes remaining. In the end the Badgers would find a way to complete the upset and take down the Buckeyes in upset fashion for a huge win.

Notable stat lines:

  • Nate Reuvers —> 17 points (3-of-12 from the floor), nine rebounds
  • Kobe King —> 13 points (6-of-7 from the floor)
  • Tyler Wahl —> Four points (2-of-5 from the floor), seven rebounds, two assists, three steals
  • Kaleb Wesson —> 22 points (7-of-10 from the floor), 13 rebounds, two assists

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: D-Fence

Ohio State came into this game averaging 77.6 points per game. The Badgers did a stellar job defensively to hold the Buckeyes down, especially in the first half. Ohio State struggled from three, making only one of ten attempts to begin the game. At the half Ohio State was held to their lowest first half total of the season at only 25 points.

After being held to only 59 points against West Virginia, the Buckeyes struggled against Wisconsin’s defensive pressure. The Badgers did not allow Ohio State to get into transition where their athletes could make plays outside of a quick run in the second half. For the game Wisconsin only allowed 57 points, three under their 60.5 average for the season.

Wisconsin has done a phenomenal job on the defensive end the past few games, and it is a big reason for the improved play of late. Tyler Wahl in particular was all over the court against the Buckeyes, and he could be a major factor in Big Ten play moving forward.

No. 2: Choppiness

On the road Wisconsin did a great job of dictating the tempo. The Badgers were very aggressive for loose balls and commanded the style of this game. While the game itself was fairly sloppy due to the number of fouls and physical play, the way it unfolded was in Wisconsin’s favor.

The defense forced Ohio State to go deep within the shot clock, and Wisconsin customarily did the same. Reducing the possessions available is not necessarily pretty, but against the No. 5 team in the country in their gym it was effective.

Kudos to Greg Gard and the staff for the game plan, as Wisconsin got a hard earned road win in a hostile environment.

No. 3: Road warriors

After losing their first five road games of the season, Wisconsin has since one four straight games and two straight on the road over ranked opponents. The Badgers have seemed to flip a switch on the defensive end and have found a team identity to grab onto. Joe Lunardi recently had the Badgers as a team in the projected NCAA tournament. If Wisconsin continues to play their game and find their footing in Big Ten play they will have a chance to go dancing once again.

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Taylor declared for the draft...

While this had no bearing on the actual basketball game, Jonathan Taylor coincidentally announced his declaration to forego his senior season during the Ohio State game. His tweet rightfully stole some of the headlines during the basketball game, but nonetheless Taylor will undoubtedly go down as one of the best representatives of Wisconsin athletics and he deserves as much recognition as humanly possible.

Up next: The Badgers will be back in action on Wednesday, January 8, when the Illinois Fighting Illini come to the Kohl Center. Tip-off will be at 8 p.m. CST on BTN.