In a season filled with countless second half collapses, today's edition was easily the most painful as the Buckeyes managed just 10 points over the final 15 minutes turning a 43-39 lead into a crushing 58-53 home loss to Wisconsin.
The loss dropped Ohio State to 17-10 overall and 8-6 in conference play. The Buckeyes have now dropped 4 of 6 and with the remaining schedule it's probably time to get those NIT travel plans set. Oh wait, nevermind. Judging from the numerous empty seats on display today, nobody plans on going anyway.
While the Buckeyes again hung close, the game was essentially over after Wisconsin answered a John Diebler three that gave OSU a 49-47 lead with a 7-0 run capped by an uncontested Brian Butch jumper from the left elbow. The bucket put Wisky in front 54-49 with 6:33 left and OSU managed just one made field goal (Turner) and two free throws the rest of the way.
Butler's free throws cut the deficit to 56-53 with 3:15 left and OSU had a chance to tie it on three consecutive possessions but spastic, unorganized offense led to 0 points on 0/4 shooting including a Butler airball that Wisconsin converted into a dunk putting an exclamation point on the end of Ohio State's NCAA hopes.
I had a feeling another collapse was coming after the Buckeyes failed to take advantage of Wisconsin's sloppy play (12 TO) and Brian Butch's foul trouble allowing the Badgers to tie the game at 32-32 at intermission. Butch scored 6 points in the first 4 minutes before picking up his 2nd foul with 14:53 left and Wisky out in front by a 8-4 margin.
With Butch on the pine, five different Buckeyes scored fueling a 13-2 run giving the Buckeyes a 17-10 lead just before the 8 minute TV timeout but constant failures to identify the shooter in the zone allowed the Badgers to hit three straight triples before a Koufos dunk provided the 32-32 halftime score.
It was all uphill from there as the Badgers committed just 2 second half turnovers while turning up the defensive intensity. The increased pressure combined with the Buckeyes' propensity to settle for threes caused Ohio State to shoot just 27% (7/26) over the final 20 minutes including 3/11 from downtown. Ohio State attempted only 6 threes in the first half and scored 32 points. Go figure.
Held out of the starting lineup for an undisclosed reason, Butler led Ohio State with 14 points but he was hardly effective. His continued trend of poor shot selection led to a 5/14 afternoon and his 4 turnovers against 5 assists simply wasn't good enough. As in the Michigan game, Butler continuously picked up his dribble 35 feet from the basket nearly causing a few five second calls or turnovers. I love the kid but I'm wondering if he's given up on this team and this season.
Another senior, Othello Hunter, continued his inconsistent season coming out strong with 9 points and 4 rebounds in the first half before registering 0 points and 2 rebounds in the second. In his defense, Hunter didn't see much action in the second stanza but at this stage of the season I'd just as soon see Thad give the bulk of Hunter's minutes to Dallas Lauderdale in preparation for 2008.
Lauderdale logged his most minutes since January 9th (8) and responded with 3 points, 5 boards, a block and 0 turnovers. I know he's not the second coming of Moses Malone but he's got a Big Ten frame and youth on his side.
Fellow freshman Kosta Koufos managed another double double with 10 points and 10 boards to go along with 2 blocks and 0 turnovers. As expected, he got bullied at times but his 5 offensive rebounds show he is getting a little tougher. I still say the kid is developing at a good pace for a big man and he'll be a force if he comes back - at the 4 spot next to BJ Mullens.
Koufos' classmates Evan Turner and Jon Diebler both struggled today combining for 7 points on 3/10 shooting while grabbing just 2 rebounds against 3 turnovers in 54 collective minutes. Turner was especially clueless, losing Jason Bohannon in the zone on a few trips.
David Light wasn't much better missing 6 of 8 shots with 3 boards and 2 turnovers in 30 minutes while Wiggler helped out with 3 points and 5 boards in 22 minutes.
I'm interested in what Matta can do with the one day he has before the Buckeyes travel to Indiana to face the Hoosiers Tuesday night on ESPN. It could get ugly as IU will be on an emotional high in their first home game since Sampson was shown the door for letting his fingers do the walking.