Ohio State felt the bite from Wisconsin’s “Killer B’s” Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center.
That is, the trio of Jared Berggren, Ben Brust and Mike Bruesewitz.
The Badgers’ post presence of Berggren, the three-point sharpshooting of Brust and the hustle of Bruesewitz proved too much for the Buckeyes to overcome, as Wisconsin (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten) used its best shooting performance of the year to blow past No. 13/14 Ohio State (18-7, 8-5) 71-49.
“They didn’t change their intensity on defense,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “The guys got good looks and they went down, we didn’t change anything.”
Bruesewitz made his presence known all night, battling inside for every rebound and dishing out four assists while scoring seven points as the Badgers scored 39 points in the first half, tied for the best total in any Big Ten game this season and shot 52.7 percent from the field against the Buckeyes, a season high.
Brust and Berggren each finished with 15 points to lead Wisconsin, while Brust gathered 11 rebounds, good for his fifth double-double of the season and his first in conference play.
“We knocked down shots,” Bruesewitz said. “It was kind of a landslide effect, once a couple people knocked down shots.”
“Momentum is a big part of basketball,” fifth-year senior forward Ryan Evans said. “You can attribute a lot of credit to the fans. Just being in the Kohl Center, that really helps us in itself.”
Deshaun Thomas opened up the game with a jumper from the left corner to give OSU a 2-0 lead, but that would be the team’s only one of the game, as UW used a decisive 18-0 run over eight minutes to leave a look of shock on its opponent’s face.
With the score knotted at 6-6, Brust faked a pass inside to a cutting Sam Dekker and pulled the string on a step-back three. On the following possession for Wisconsin, Brust did it again, this time in the face of Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Wisconsin continued its run with an old-fashioned three-point play by Berggren, as Ohio State’s Amir Williams overcommitted to the right to try to make a play on the ball. With the score 14-6, a media timeout gave Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta a much-needed break to converse with his players about how to stop their opponent’s run.
“We had some point blank layups that didn’t go in,” Matta said. “It’s hard to get great shots against Wisconsin. I saw the panic more on the defensive end. We shut down more defensively than we did on the offensive end.”
The Badgers were far from finished, as center Frank Kamnisky blew by his defender, Evan Ravenel, and penetrated the lane, kicking it out to Brust for another three-point basket, extending the lead to 18-6 in favor of the Badgers.
After a Dekker layup and Ryan Evans’ 15-foot jumper extended the lead to 22-6, Matta took a 30-second timeout. But, as if to definitely crush any Buckeyes’ hopes of getting back into the game, Berggren swatted Thomas’ shot attempt in the lane.
Less than a minute later Berggren put an offensive exclamation mark on the run, taking a feed from a driving George Marshall under the basket for a one-handed slam, capping the 18-0 run.
“The way we opened up the game defensively, we weren’t even challenging shots,” Matta said. “We took the timeout and we were like, ‘What’s going on here?’
“We won’t forget this basketball game.”
The second half was no different, as a dunk from freshman standout Sam Dekker, who finished the game with 13 points, and a put-back flush from Ryan Evans highlighted the game’s final 20 minutes. Wisconsin never allowed Ohio State to cut the deficit to less than 13 in that second half.
It was a signature moment for Evans, who finished the dunk off a missed Brust three, crashing the lane and throwing it down with one hand to ignite the Kohl Center.
It was the signature moment on a solid night from the Wisconsin forward, who finished with a nine-point, five-rebound performance. Evans was a game-time decision entering the game after missing Saturday’s team practice due to illness.
Thomas finished with 18 for Ohio State, leading all scorers. The 22-point loss was also the Buckeyes’ worst since losing to Wisconsin Dec. 31, 2009, at the Kohl Center by the same amount.
Ohio State dropped to fifth in the conference standings while Wisconsin leapfrogs into a tie for third with Michigan, trailing first place teams Indiana and Michigan State by two with five games remaining in conference play.
“I think every game is going to be a challenge no matter who it is,” Brust said. “Any team can beat any team. You have to take care of business with what you can control and the rest will play out your way.”