Ryan Evans nearly brought the Kohl Center roof tumbling down with a thunderous, one-handed put-back slam. Ben Brust ignited an 18-0 run early with three quick three-pointers and finished with his fifth double-double of the season.
Lost in the celebration of Wisconsin’s 71-49 rout of No. 13 Ohio State (18-7, 8-5) was a quiet but efficient afternoon from Traevon Jackson, who finished with 10 points and four assists. The sophomore guard ended up 4-of-8 from the field and sunk two of his three tries from the charity stripe against the Buckeyes, a performance that carried all the more importance after one of the more trying nights of his young career in a loss to Minnesota Thursday night.
On the final play of regulation against the Gophers he heaved a questionable, low-percentage look at the basket as time expired, the chance to hit the game-winner and emerge the hero in Minneapolis becoming an afterthought. He finished 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) from the field against the Gophers and converted only one of his six tries from long distance.
But Wisconsin (18-8, 9-4) head coach Bo Ryan said the lack of downtime from that loss likely benefitted his starting point guard.
“When you’re younger and playing …. you couldn’t wait to get the next game started if you got beat or if you didn’t make shots or you made some bad decisions or whatever,” Ryan said. “The toughest part for competitors is if you have to sit and wait for awhile.
“So the fact that we had a game in a couple days, that’s the best thing that can happen to a guy like Trae.”
No such heroics were needed Sunday afternoon, when the Badgers never let the Buckeyes pull closer than 14 points in the game’s final 30 minutes. Ryan said he did not think Jackson looked hesitant to shoot the ball in the first half, but a missed layup in the game’s first two minutes was his lone shot attempt of the opening 20 minutes.
Aaron Craft – a player who has gained national acclaim for his lockdown defense and has shut down the likes of Michigan’s Trey Burke – made Jackson a virtual non-factor early, but that all changed in the second half.
His most impressive basket came when he rifled up a wild attempt from deep inside two-point territory that kissed off the glass and fell through the net.
“I think the end-of-the-shot-clock bank shot kind of typified [the game],” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “They were rolling. Two years we made 14 straight threes ago [in a 93-65 OSU win] against them in a game and they were guarding us. It was kind of one of those types of things for them.”
Jackson came out aggressive in the second half and fired off the first shot of the half, eventually scoring eight of UW’s first 16 points to open the second half.
His double-digit scoring – the seventh time this year he has passed the 10-point mark – is the stat that pops out in the box score, but Jackson’s four assists were equally valuable. Three of them were feeds into the paint converted into easy baskets and helped Wisconsin shoot a season-high 52.7 percent from the field.
Sam Dekker proved his favorite target, as the freshman hit a three-pointer late in the first half and took a smart feed from Jackson as he cut through the lane straight to the rim with a powerful two-handed slam.
“He kind of took [the Minnesota loss] personally, and I think he just did a good job of playing within the game,” junior guard Ben Brust said. “He had four assists and he shot 50 percent so I think he just made an effort to play solid and not do anything spectacular.”
In a loss to the Buckeyes earlier this year, Jackson actually led the Badgers with 12 points and finished 5-of-9 from the floor. But senior forward Mike Bruesewitz said Jackson felt as if Craft had limited his game by making him uncomfortable with the ball in his hands in that first matchup.
After breaking down film from that game, the sophomore not only looked comfortable on the offensive end but also held the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year to four points on 2-of-9 shooting in 30 minutes of play.
“When we played at Ohio State, he kind of felt like he got sped up a little bit and he felt like Craft made him do some stuff he didn’t really want to,” Bruesewitz said. “He made sure he took care of that and he handled it well.
“Definitely going against Craft is not an easy task. He’s [eaten] up a lot of point guards and I know his play today really helped us get out and push the lead out early.”