Led by a career-high 36-point outburst from sophomore center Jessica Davenport, the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (20-2, 7-1) defeated the Wisconsin Badgers (7-10, 1-6) 86-67 at the Kohl Center Thursday. The victory moved the Buckeyes back into a first-place tie in the Big Ten, while the loss drops Wisconsin to ninth in the Big Ten race.
Despite facing double and triple teams for most of the night, going against a rotating cast of defenders that included Nelson, senior Ebba Gebisa and junior Jordan Wilson, Davenport was spectacular. Her 12-21 shooting performance set several Kohl Center records, including points by an opponent, field goals made by an opponent and field goals attempted by an opponent.
“I give our team a lot of credit. We got great energy out of Ebba Gebisa tonight, and Steph (Rich) and Jolene (Anderson) gave us some points, but the name of the game was rebounds,” Wisconsin head coach Lisa Stone said.
Rebounds were indeed the name of the game, with Ohio dominating on the glass from the outset. The Badgers jumped out to an early 5-2 lead, but just over 12 minutes into the contest they found themselves in a 30-12 hole after a Tamarah Riley lay-up. The shot capped a 26-7 Buckeye run fueled by eight offensive boards. The Badgers had amassed only seven total rebounds at the same juncture.
After the media timeout, the Badgers came out firing, with Anderson hitting a pair of 3’s and a lay-up to help Wisconsin cut the lead to 14. But the Buckeyes refused to give, trading buckets with the Badgers for the remainder of the half and eventually entering the intermission with a 16-point advantage at 45-29.
Ohio State ended the half still holding a 22-14 advantage on the boards, which contributed to the Buckeyes’ 32-8 advantage in points in the paint. Wisconsin also hurt their own cause by committing 12 first-half turnovers, which led to 20 Ohio State points.
“I thought (in) the first half we were very good defensively, and quick and aggressive,” Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said. “I thought in the second half, we got into sort of exchange-the-basket mentality, which is not a good thing to get into.”
Ohio State wasn’t the only team to have a mentality change coming out of halftime. After a Rich turnover to start the period, Wisconsin went on a 7-0 run, getting five points from Anderson, to cut the Ohio State lead to 36-45, their smallest lead since the 9:34 mark of the first half.
“For the first time all year, I think we came out in the second half and jumped on them right away,” Rich said.
However, Ohio State countered with a 20-6 run of their own, going ahead 65-42 with 11:49 remaining in the game. The Buckeyes fed the ball to Davenport continually throughout the stretch, daring the Badger defense to stop her. When it was all said and done, Davenport posted 12 of her 18 second-half points and three rebounds during the stretch. Buckeye guard Caity Matter also chipped in three of her five steals during the stretch.
“We feel we’re an inside-outside team, and we’re going to have that mentality,” Foster said. “Our team is patient on offense, and I think the patience created a lot of good opportunities for Jess (Davenport).”
Ohio State’s 23-point lead would prove insurmountable for the Badgers, as Wisconsin would never get any closer than 18 points for the rest of the game.
Anderson led the way for the Badgers with 24 points and five assists, but committed six turnovers as well. Rich chipped in 12 points, and Gebisa and freshman guard Janese Banks each added eight points.
The Badgers did manage to out-shoot the Buckeyes from behind the arc, hitting 8-18 from 3-point range. The Buckeyes, who have shot 43 percent from behind the arc this season, managed to hit only 22 percent from the 3-point line, shooting 2-9. Wisconsin also shot a season-high 90 percent from the free throw line in the loss.
Matter posted 14 points and five steals for the Buckeyes, while guard Kim Wilburn added five points and a game-high seven steals to go along with Davenport’s 36 points and nine rebounds.
Ohio State finished the game with a 56-24 edge in points in the paint and an 18-2 lead in fast break points. The Buckeyes also out-rebounded the Badgers 42-27 on the night, and forced 21 Wisconsin turnovers while committing just 14 of their own.
Despite his team’s impressive performance, Foster recognized the improvement of the Badgers and left some words of caution for upcoming opponents.
“Wisconsin’s a very good basketball team,” he said. “They’re going to improve as the year goes along. They’re going to get somebody here.”