On Saturday night, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team edged out the Ohio State Buckeyes 55-50 at the Kohl Center, extending its winning streak to four games and keeping its NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Although the Badgers allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 55.3 percent from the field for the game, Wisconsin was able to force 19 Ohio State turnovers to keep the game within reach.
“Down on the defensive end, we don’t take any wishes or hopes there; you just have to play hard,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “Fortunately, we got them to turn it over because they were shooting it so well. If we don’t get them to turn it over, we have no chance.”
Senior forwards Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft led the Badgers to the victory, combining for 26 of the team’s 55 points. Krabbenhoft also registered a career-high six steals to pave the victory for Wisconsin.
“That was a hard-fought battle, and eventually Wisconsin obviously made the plays down the stretch,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “I think the seniors and Landry and Krabbenhoft really stepped up, made some huge plays and had great nights.”
With both teams playing very physical games, the Badgers and Buckeyes traded leads 11 times in the first half. Ohio State guards Evan Turner and William Buford, who led the Buckeyes in scoring going into the game, led the team with 17 combined points in the first half.
“It was a very physical game, and that is how we like to play, getting back to that old-school Wisconsin basketball,” Krabbenhoft said. “We enjoy that.”
With the Badgers struggling against the Ohio State 2-3 matchup zone and the Buckeyes going cold from the field, the score remained tied 15-15 for over three minutes in the first half. After trading a few baskets, Buford knocked down a jumper to put the Buckeyes up 23-22 with 22 seconds left in the half.
But the Badgers weren’t done, as Landry tipped in a forced jumper by freshman Jordan Taylor as time expired to put Wisconsin up 24-23 at the end of the half.
“When they tipped that ball in at the end of the first half, I said to myself, ‘Oh no. That’s exactly what happened I think in year one here on a last-second tip-in,’” Matta said. “I don’t know. You look at Wisconsin and obviously this is a tremendous college basketball program.”
In the second half, the Badgers continued to force turnovers and widened their already favorable rebounding advantage. For the game, Wisconsin outrebounded the Buckeyes 32-22, with an astonishing 15-3 margin on the offensive boards.
“It felt good, with a rebounding team like that, with their size and things like that,” Landry said. “But we were very active on the glass today, and it paid off for us. It gave us a second chance to score, so it really worked out in our favor.”
The Badgers went up by as many as five points before a short Ohio State run tied the game at 37 points apiece with 12:59 left in the game. Wisconsin was able to reclaim its lead, but the Buckeyes’ B.J. Mullens hit a free throw to put Ohio State on top 46-45 for the first time in the half with 3:36.
But Wisconsin would recover thanks to Krabbenhoft, who capped his career game defensively with a huge 3-pointer to put the Badgers up for good with 2:06 left in the game. Krabbenhoft attributed the open look to freshman guard Jordan Taylor, who found Krabbenhoft as time was winding down on the shot clock.
“Jordan did a great job at driving down the lane and getting a couple guys to go with him, because I am sure they were not too worried about me out there, so I just put it up there and it went down,” Krabbenhoft said. “It felt really good when it left my hand. I finally got some arc on my shot and I was really happy, but Jordan did all the work.”
Although the Badgers struggled from the field, shooting only 36.4 percent for the game and 22.2 percent from 3-point range, they were able to get the job done by capitalizing on Buckeye mistakes.
“You have to just find a way,” Ryan said. “It’s that thing we were talking about before; if you’re in a batting slump, bunt or have a better eye and walk more. It doesn’t change; you just have to find some things to go to in order to give you a chance.”